LAHORE  -  The national flag carrier is unable to find enough time for proper maintenance of its planes for the last couple of months because of shortage of aircrafts, The Nation learned on Sunday.

Sources in Pakistan International Airline (PIA) revealed that instead of reporting critical incidents the airline management highlights the SAFA index which has improved marginally.

But SAFA index is a very superficial level check and cannot be relied upon to avoid disasters, they said.

On the other hand, due to CEO Musharraf Rasool Cyan’s gross mismanagement, the airline is incurring high losses which have topped Rs54 billion in 11 months.

The loss is 12 billion rupees in excess of the loss suffered in the corresponding period last year.

About poor maintenance of the planes, the airline sources presented some examples of planes malfunctioning.

These included engine fuel leak of a 777 aircraft at Toronto Airport, grounding of a 777 plane at London’s Heathrow Airport, aborted takeoff at Lahore airport, hydraulic failures of a 320 aircraft and fuel consumption at an unexpected high rate on a long haul flight which created panic in the cockpit as the fuel might not have been enough to make it to the destination.

They claimed that insufficient number of planes in the fleet and PIA CEO Musharraf Cyan's lack of airline business experience were the main reasons behind the serious compromise on safety that has been witnessed over the last couple of months.

Sources revealed that Cyan did not allow acquiring additional planes on a wet lease for Haj and peak season, wrongly thinking that wet leases are always an expensive way of acquiring planes. Wet leases are in fact beneficial when used for short periods of time during peak season.

The inside sources said the good work of Chief Operating Officer Zia Qureshi to secure additional planes for the peak season was wasted as the CEO rejected this viable option.

They said Cyan failed to comprehend the importance of adequate number of planes in light of the committed passenger demand. This is what happens when the CEO doesn't understand the business he is running, they added.

But safety is obviously a greater concern than that of earnings, and the above said decision has exposed the slim PIA fleet to a high demand pressure – leaving the busy planes with little time for their proper maintenance.

This is the root cause of the number of serious faults that have developed in the planes over the past two months.

The sources said that the consequences of these faults could be disastrous and urgent action was needed as the passenger safety was being compromised.

Another related issue, which is part of the safety problem, is that the critical faults are not appropriately reported and hence the management and the board of directors are unable to truly understand the level of risk exposure that has been building up.

Chief Operating Officer Zia Qureshi has reportedly been regularly expressing his concerns about the safety issue but the CEO took little notice of it and the situation is getting more dangerous with the passage of time.

This is an extremely worrying situation for the national flag carrier and PIA needs to take safety issue seriously.

Publicly the company denies any issues regarding safety, however, an internal email leaked from CEO Musharraf's office/CEO Secretariat confirmed that flight delays in the last few months have increased to a high level.

The airline sources said Cyan was forewarned when he went into the Haj operation with lesser number of planes.

“You have a CEO who has no airline business experience whatsoever and he has a chairman (Ijaz Munir) above him who again is with zero airline industry experience,” remarked a senior PIA officer when asked about the maintenance and safety issues.

Sources said that there is now an aviation secretary, who too does not have any airline industry experience. Below the CEO level is chief commercial officer who too does not have relevant experience, they added.

The alarming email from the CEO Secretariat which is enough to confirm CEO's failure, states: "It has been observed that during the last few months the flight delays on account of technical issues have increased to maximum which is affecting airline’s efficiency and reputation, besides causing onward consequential delays.

“In view of above, the president and CEO have directed to initiate a thorough investigation regarding status of aircraft maintenance, particularly focusing on the engines maintenance and overhaul planning and implementation, engineering capability to anticipate, monitor and address the defects, effective planning and mechanisms in place to address these issues."

While the email confirms the terrible state of affairs and technical issues, it does not specifically address the reasons for safety risk exposure; rather, it merely focuses on resultant delays and irregularity.

This clearly shows that those responsible are either inexperienced or they are extremely negligent.

As many pilots and engineers are losing sleep over the technical issues’ reaching the high-risk levels, Cyan and others like him remain unconcerned and are busy in recording self-promotion videos and declaring the last couple of months a great success for the airline.

The PIA’s deteriorated reputation and the revival of its previous glory is more important than the loss of money over the 11 months, the sources said.

It appears Imran Khan and Asad Umer dream team may be falling victim to the confusion being created by ‘the blind leading the blind’, they said.

The sources said the PLM-N installed PIA team is making desperate attempts to buy more time to survive under the new government with the assistance of PTI lawyer Naeem Bhukhari and Image Builders consultants, who are cashing in big time from an insolvent PIA.