GILGIT: Flights to Gilgit, suspended after the Civil Aviation Authority temporarily grounded the fleet of ATR aircraft of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), disrupting flights to Gilgit-Baltistan, may resume after the airline on Thursday said that one of the aircraft had been cleared to fly.
The development came even as the national flag carrier said it had managed to secure a C-130 transport aircraft from the Pakistan Air Force to resume flights to Gilgit.
“Good News: One ATR-42 aircraft has been cleared in shakedown test,” tweeted PIA spokesperson Danyal Gilani on Thursday evening.
“Flights from Islamabad to Gilgit and Chitral would now be made operational,” he added.
The announcement, however, came hours after a flight to Gilgit on the C-130 scheduled for Thursday was postponed for unknown reasons.
Flights to Giligt-Baltistan and northern areas were suspended shortly after flight PK-661, flying from Chitral to Islamabad crashed in a hillside in Havelian on December 7 killing all 47 people on board including the former iconic pop star turned evangelist Junaid Jamshed and DC Chitral Osama Warraich. Subsequently, the CAA had grounded all 10 ATR-42 aircraft of PIA.
To mitigate the crisis, the federal government had directed PIA continue its flights using C-130 Hercules transport planes of the PAF. “It [postponed flight] has now been scheduled for Friday onwards,” said an official at the PIA inquiry department without explaining the reason for cancelling Thursday’s flight. “Till ATR flights are restored, we have decided to start flights using C-130s to facilitate passengers,” said Faizullah Faraq, an official spokesperson for the Gilgit-Baltisan government. However, he later said that with the plane restored to service, they would not require the C-130s to fly people to and from the region.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2016.