While PIA has cancelled numerous scheduled flights to enable it carry out Pre- Hajj operation carrying pilgrims to Holy Land, it was instructed by a commercial subsidiary of Army Welfare Trust to go to Burundi for ferrying UN peacekeeping troops. Askari Aviation had made an agreement with Shaheen Air, which backed out of the deal. PIA’s B 777 was stranded at Burundi for over four days, because engines could not be started, since airport did not have compatible ground handling facilities. Commercial interests of Askari Aviation must not override scheduled operational commitment of PIA, which is already suffering huge losses.
Scheduled airlines like PIA must meet their normal commercial flight operations and should never undertake operations to an airport where basic essential standby equipment like Ground Power Unit, Ground Pneumatic Start Cart etc are not available in case Auxiliary Power Unit of aircraft fails. Yet PIA was made to undertake this operation, after dropping Hajjis in Saudi Arabia, and proceed from there to Burundi to pick up UN Peacekeeping troops. Such operations are normally carried out by Charter Airlines which are equipped to operate to such airports which lack basic essential facilities.
Aircraft APU is not recommended to be used for extensive periods of time on ground and is only to be used for normal scheduled operations during transit stopover which usually does not extend beyond I hour. While it is national duty of PIA as designated national airline to carry out annual Hajj operation, it should not be burdened with extra duties at cost of disrupting its scheduled operations and embark on such missions during peak Hajj operation period.
MALIK T ALI,
Lahore, August 16.