Was the plane airworthy?: Experts question performance of CAA

Published: April 21, 2012

The crashed Boeing 737-200 was over forty years old, leading some to point the finger at maintenance standards. DESIGN: AMNA IQBAL & FAIZAN DAWOOD

KARACHI: 

The aircraft used by Bhoja Air which crashed on Friday was over forty years old. However, experts say that, old or new, any aircraft can crash in hostile conditions. Others say, though, that rampant corruption in the industry in Pakistan too often allows poorly maintained airplanes to fly.

Experts say that even though the aircraft used by the airline was extremely old, it was considered airworthy by the authorities.

Former Pakistan Airline Pilots’ Association president Naqi Rehman said he had no doubts that the investigations carried out into the incident would eventually blame the deceased pilot for the incident.

“Blaming the pilot is the most convenient way out for everybody, since it leaves the Civil Aviation Authority, Ministry of Defence, and the aircraft manufacturers off the hook,” he said. He added that this was also the case in the recent AirBlue crash incident in Islamabad.

Rehman, a retired Boeing aircraft pilot, said even though the aircraft used by Bhoja may have been old, it must have been termed airworthy. “There is massive corruption and anyone who shows the money to the right people can get the Air Operating Certificate to start an airline,” he alleged.

He asked why no one from the ministry of defence has resigned even though it was during their tenure that two aircraft have crashed. Also, he said that private airlines take minimum safety precautions and none of them have a safety training institute to train their personnel.

According to aviation law expert Shah Murad, since 1947 a total of 1,193 people have lost their lives in 32 aircraft accidents, including Friday’s Bhoja Air crash.

“This raises a big question mark on the performance of the Civil Aviation Authority and the quality of air worthiness and maintenance of aircraft. Undoubtedly, the CAA has compromised on the aviation safety standards prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organization,” Murad said.

Experts say it is the duty of the CAA as a regulator to ensure the compliance of aviation safety standards in Pakistan.

In Pakistan, the CAA regulates all aspects of commercial aviation activities. Under section 5 (2) of the CAA Ordinance, 1982 the CAA is responsible to ensure and promote safe, efficient, adequate, economical and properly coordinated civil air transport services. “However, the CAA has failed in discharging its statutory functions and duties,” Murad said.

“Aviation safety is of much concern to the general public. However, airline companies in Pakistan have outdated fleet which is not meeting the international aviation safety standards,” he added.

Former Managing Director PIA Aijaz Haroon cautioned against speculating whether the aircraft or weather or pilot was responsible for the crash. “Aircraft whether new or old can crash anywhere in the world, so one can’t say for sure what caused the incident unless an impartial investigation is carried out,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2012.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Salman
    Apr 21, 2012 - 10:51AM

    Its another case of Regulatory Negligence. Like all other so called independent regulators, CAA is also under the influence of political pressures and private commercial interests. The investigation into the crash must not be done by CAA so that its own role can also be looked into. People want to know who is regulating the regulators!!!

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  • M.AKRAM NIAZI
    Apr 21, 2012 - 11:06AM

    PIA and CAA are Facing Disasters due to appointments of party workers,relatives and friends by rulers without any merit due to which lives of innocent passengers have endangered.,Therefore all passengers should avoid air travelling in Pakistan, till the times all such cronies and incompetent people are removed and kicked out from these organizations.
    Avalanchee in Siachian and Air Crash of Bhoja Air Plane, all indicates that there is serious need to analyse and criticize and monitor these white elephant type institutions, who even can not predict and forcast weather conditions, and even are not aware in advance falling of one kilometer Avalanche and fly Air plane in bad wheather conditions. These institutions like PIA and Civil Aviation Authority have lost all their trust,performance and competency due to recruitment of employess without out any merit by rulers like Benazir, Gillani and Zadari, for which they are also facing cases, but in no country of world there are so much shameless and coward rulers as in Pakistan.For them it is no matter whether people die in floods, By Drones, By Avalanchee, By Air plane Crash,By Target Killing, or by terrorist attacks, they are just interested in their rule and richness.
    M.AKRAM

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  • Apr 21, 2012 - 11:08AM

    Its not about plane being old, because Pakistan already have fair share of old planes in fleet of almost all of their airlines, though they are still safe to fly. Its mainly about letting the plane take the risk to land in bad weather which is either fault of pilot or control tower, but still we may have to wait for result of investigation before implying anything on our own.

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  • moeed
    Apr 21, 2012 - 11:30AM

    40 years old my god is there any worth of life in this country

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  • Aviator
    Apr 21, 2012 - 12:17PM

    The Blame Games Would Start Now, but the end would be the same as of AIrblue, its investigation report is already rejected , now what do you expect from this ?

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  • Aviator
    Apr 21, 2012 - 12:19PM

    Its Time to END the BABAism from Aviation of Pakistan! NO Matter if its CAA or any Airline of Pakistan

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  • Sattar
    Apr 21, 2012 - 12:34PM

    We as a nation deserve worse and I am sure it will come our way. All the choices that we have made over the last 64 years are catching up with us and it is pay time baby…40 yr old plane and the license of this captain was not fully clear but then who cares at the end of the day…life is not worth much in this land…

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  • Meerza
    Apr 21, 2012 - 12:34PM

    We just can not understand all this fuss & conspiracy theories.
    Several eye witness accounts say ( including a Lt. Col from Pak army) that the ill fated plane was hit by cloud burst & struck by lightning with tail winds up till 65 KM an hour as it tumbled down to ground in a fireball while on the correct & true landing approach.
    I think the CAA & met office staff at Chaklala Airbase need to be grilled for having permitted the plane to Land.
    Period.Recommend

  • Huska Varna
    Apr 21, 2012 - 1:08PM

    There is no doubt that this plane should have been redirected to another airport.
    You have imbisiles in posts that received there jobs through cronism and relatives.
    So much corruption in Pakistan how can you trust anything there anymore. If you value your life, never get on a Pakistani airline anywhere.
    Any object regulated by a Pakistan authority is subject to suspicion. Chances are it stinks rotten

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  • Sheikh
    Apr 21, 2012 - 1:20PM

    Come on! Don’t exaggerate too much on the age of the aircraft…THE AIRCRAFT WAS SOLD BY BOEING IN 1985….The maintenance though, is another thing !

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  • Meekal Ahmed
    Apr 21, 2012 - 1:50PM

    @Meerza:

    It is possible that there was a sudden and violent shift in winds. There were T-storms around I hear.

    But weather, on its own, does not bring down an aircarft no matter how young or old it may be. There have to be other factors and we don’t know those other factors yet.

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  • Vigilant
    Apr 21, 2012 - 2:08PM

    SHAME SHAME SHAME SHAME SHAME on CAA for such Poor work……utter negligence…….they should be ASHAMED while collecting their salaries…….
    They think that people are fool…..how can a plane given health certificate from CAA…..cleared for landing by CAA considering weather conditions……flown by airlines given license by CAA….and now investigation will be conducted by CAA…..who are to blame in the first place…..i don’t know what’s going on??????????Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Apr 21, 2012 - 2:15PM

    @Meerza:
    The decision to land is pilot’s. No one can force him to land. I was on a flight to Lahore and the plane was about to land but the pilot made the decision and decided to divert it to Islamabad few years ago. Even though passengers were saying we should have landed. PIA pilots are quite good I must say!

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  • ali gilani
    Apr 21, 2012 - 4:17PM

    @moeed:
    How you got the figure “40″ years old? 737 was not even on the drawing board then. Ya keep yapping left and right without even checking facts first. ET, you should hire competent people who are responsible and are accountable for what they type.

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  • Azmuh
    Apr 21, 2012 - 5:58PM

    @Al agilani
    A simple wiki search can tell u that 737-200 first made it’s maiden flight in 1968…. 44 years ago..the first original was made in 66….. Recommend

  • ijazmir
    Apr 21, 2012 - 6:18PM

    All air crafts new or old fly on airworthiness requirements,All aircraft parts and components are time controlled items Plus all modification issued by the manufacturer are time controlled.
    Major over hall is time controlled and Airworthiness certificate is issues after completion of a major overhaul and test flight.
    All maintenance crew are trained,examined and appropriately licensed on the type of aircraft.
    All pilots are trained ex amend and licences on the type of aircraft.
    Accident can happen in any country cause could be mechanical failure,poor maintenance,,weather phenomena and human error.
    All maintenance records can be verified any time.
    Weather phenomena and human error cause of an airworthy aircraft to crash ,Where the pilot is considered principally responsible. This could be defined as unintentional mistake, oversight or laps.
    Principally aircraft operator or owner is not responsible.
    Finally Weather phenomena
    The pilot may be in error in during adverse weather condition. If pilot new the weather conditions and took the reasonably steps to avoid it, But place a pilot as cause of the accident is always controversial.
    In United States pilot error listed as the primary cause of 78.6%of total general aviation accidents

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  • wahab
    Apr 21, 2012 - 8:12PM

    PIA is the safest and best!! It still takes maximum precautions and average fleet age is 16 years of its planes!!

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  • Nasir
    Apr 21, 2012 - 8:35PM

    This is gross negligence, incompetency and corruption on part of Bhoja Air. Their planes should be grounded and thougroughly checked with extremely high standards of International Aviation.
    19 months ago Air Blue plane crashed and we didn’t learn from the crash as it belonged to PML-N MNA Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

    I think CAA should be independent of any political influence. They should not compromise on safety standards. The reason Pakistan’s Airlines are grounded in Europe and Americas, because Pakistan is a corrupt country with corrution taking precedence over human life.

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  • Ahsan Afzal
    Apr 22, 2012 - 1:20AM

    The Bhoja Air Incident! I shall here like to refer to FAA Airworthiness Directives for the Boeing Company Models 737-100, -200, -200C, -300, -400, and -500 Series Airplanes as issued on 21/01/2011. It says “We propose to adopt a new airworthiness directive (AD) for certain Model 737-100, -200, -200C, -300, -400, and -500 series airplanes. This proposed AD would result in all airplanes having new relays with a ground fault interrupter (GFI) feature. This proposed AD would require, depending on airplane configuration, doing certain wiring changes, replacing the fuel pump power control relays for the main, center and auxiliary tanks, as applicable, with new relays having a GFI feature, performing certain bonding resistance measurements, and modifying relay module assemblies. The proposed AD also would require revising the maintenance program to incorporate Airworthiness Limitations (AWLs) 28-AWL-23 (for Model 737-100, 737-200, and 737-200C series airplanes), and 28-AWL-22 (for Model 737-300, 737-400, and 737-500 series airplanes). This proposed AD results from fuel system reviews conducted by the manufacturer. We are proposing this AD to prevent damage to the fuel pumps caused by electrical arcing that could introduce an ignition source in the fuel tank, which, in combination with flammable fuel vapors, could result in a fuel tank explosion and consequent loss of the airplane”. It is really have to be investigated if ill-fated aircraft underwent the required compulsory upgrade and if not then reports that Bhoja Air ill fated airplane exploded in air due fuel tank burst (which in turn may have exploded due electrical arcing) may be one of the reasons for such an unwanted incident. I wonder if our investigators will ever look into the suggested angle?

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  • Omar Khan
    Apr 24, 2012 - 4:35PM

    Plane was 27 yrs old, come one can’t anyone get the facts right or is it a must to add spice to get people to read a news item?

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