ISLAMABAD - A PIA committee has endorsed the acquisition of Boeing aircraft for Hajj operations by the airline’s management terming the decision as ‘transparent.’

Following its members meeting on Wednesday, the Joint Action Committee of Pakistan International Airlines Employees (JACPIAE) expressed satisfaction over what it termed as transparent process being adopted by the new management in fleet acquisition. The committee comprises of PIA’s technical experts including pilots and engineers as well as the representatives of the airline’s unions.

Last week, The PIA Board of Directors (BoD) had approved leasing nine Boeing planes including Boeing 737-800, 747-400 and 777 aircraft. Of them, five are Narrow Body 737-800 aircraft, two Wide Body 747-400 and 777 each. The decision sparked criticism with fingers been pointed at the deteriorating operational efficiency and exhausted flying life of certain models of the Boeing 737 and 747 aircraft.

A detailed statement from the PIA employees committee issued here quoted Captain Sohail Baloch President Pakistan Airline Pilots Association (PALPA) and Convener JACPIAE as having said that the PIA  management had briefed the unions and associations regarding ‘Temporary Bridging Plan’ to acquire few aircraft for specific needs to bridge the gap specially when purchasing new planes could take three to four years and bringing its full fleet in service could take at least six more months. “The Hajj operations are around the corner and shortage of the fleet could have forced the management to repeat the horrific scenario of previous Hajj operations where poor Hajjis were stranded at Jeddah airport for more than 15 hours at times,” he said.

The ‘genuineness’ of the whole process, Baloch argued, can be ascertained by the fact that PIA management is not holding any session on the subject without the union representatives present contrary to some of the ‘dubious’ deals made in the past.

On the reports of non-transparency in Boeing aircraft acquisition,  a JACPIAE statement said, “It will be injustice to the elected members of the unions and associations overseeing the process and ensuring all technical and procedural modalities, to adopt traditional rhetoric of corruption based on lack of awareness of aviation norms and requirement.”.

The selection process is still underway and the bids are being evaluated as against the reports of awarding the contract, the committee observed. 

President Society of Aircraft Engineers of Pakistan (SAEP) and Deputy Convener JACPIAE Shaukat Jamshed said, the present ageing fleet of PIA consists of 38 aircraft of which three to four aircraft remain under scheduled maintenance while seven to eight aircraft are kept grounded for repairing purposes. Jamshed accused the PIA’s previous managements for introducing what he termed as ‘cannibalisation’ of PIA resources. “The previous managements did not pay heed to these aircraft and a process of cannibalisation was ordered which ate up airline’s prime resources.”

The JACPIAE’s post-meeting press release stated, the PIA management is in the process of bringing its repaired engines from almost all around the world after arranging funds for the same, adding that the airline, on urgent basis, required more aircraft for better facilitation to the travelling public.

 Sharing technical details about Boeing 737 and 747 aircraft,  the committee said that the selection of narrow body B737-800 were approved for leasing predominantly taking into account the following factors: License issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to pilots/cockpit crew for B737-300  is also valid for B737-800 with conversion of only one day class room training and two hours simulator training. Cabin crew conversion from B737-300  to B737-800 needs two days classroom training. Engineers conversion training from B737-300 to B737-800 needs 18 days of training. Existing shop repair and maintenance facility for 737-300 and 737-800 is common. Spare parts inventory of B737-300 and B737-800 have 40 percent parts commonality thereby meaning less acquisition of spares for maintaining Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) specified float level (Minimum Inventory Level).

 The JACPIAE stated, the final agreement for aircraft acquisition could only come into force once the aircraft had been duly inspected and cleared by a composite team comprising of inspectors from the CAA, PIA Flight Operations, PIA Flight Safety and Quality Assurance and a representative each from PIA Engineering and Corporate Planning Departments to physically inspect the aircraft and its associated records.