Was the plane airworthy?: Experts question performance of CAA

The crashed Boeing 737-200 was over forty years old, leading some to point the finger at maintenance standards.

Salman Siddiqui April 21, 2012


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.


Omar Khan | 9 years ago | Reply

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?

Ahsan Afzal | 9 years ago | Reply

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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