LAHORE - PIA engineering department has so far cleared only one ATR plane out of the 10 that had been grounded after the crash in which all 47 passengers and crew were killed a few days back.

An engineer and office bearer of Society of Aircraft Engineer Pakistan (SAEP), on condition of not to be named, said it could take a week to examine the remaining nine other planes and make them fit for flying.

He said there was no specific problem with the planes nor was any check due, but after crash of an ATR there was fear among the passengers and the airline management as well about the fitness of the planes of ATR family. Only to satisfy the stakeholders, checks were being carried out, he added.

Spokesman for the airline, however, claimed the national carrier yesterday operated six ATR flights, including PK-605 (Islamabad-Gilgit), PK-606 (Gilgit-Islamabad), PK-249 (Islamabad-Kabul), PK-250 (Kabul-Islamabad), PK-681 (Islamabad-Multan) and PK-682 (Multan-Islamabad).

The PIA on Sunday operated C-130 flights for Gilgit and Chitral, including PK-605 (Islamabad-Gilgit), PK-606 (Gilgit-Islamabad), PK-660 (Islamabad-Chitral) and PK-661 (Chitral-Islamabad). Later, after clearance of one ATR and its shakedown test, PK-681 (Islamabad-Multan) and PK-682 (Multan-Islamabad) were operated on ATR aircraft in the evening.

A senior retired PIA officer said ATR planes were being operated across the world while 40 percent sale of the ATR was in Asia. Apart from Asia, Japan, America and Taiwan were also among the countries using ATR planes for short-distance flights. He said ATR plane performs well in cold weather, green and dust-free countries.

The PIA is using these aircraft for coastal cities like Pasni, Gwadar and Turbat, Nawabshah and Sukkur of interior Sindh, Rahim Yar Khan and Multan of southern Punjab and northern areas like Gilgit, Chitral and Sakardu.

He said there would be no financial impact on the airline after suspension of the ATR operation.

It merits mentioning here that only the national carrier operates on these routes. No private airline operates on these because these are not profit-making routes.

Our staff reporter adds from Islamabad: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Monday resumed operation of the ATR aircraft after they were cleared by the technical staff.

Commenting on media queries regarding PK-898 (Lahore-Kuala Lumpur), the PIA spokesman explained that due to some technical issue, the aircraft was brought to Karachi, the PIA's engineering base.

After the aircraft swap, the flight departed at 2300GMT while the plane is undergoing repair.