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PIA could have avoided crash of ATR: report

ISLAMABAD: The crash of PIA plane that killed 48 people while flying from Chitral to Islamabad in December 2016 could have been prevented had Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) staff reported the aircraft’s faults on time.

In the PIA Chitral clash, all 48 people on board lost their lives when the plane carrying 42 passengers and six crew members from Chitral to Islamabad crashed on December 7, 2016, near Havelian in Abbottabad.

PIA’s Engineering and Maintenance Department Special Audit for the years 2014-2017 has noted that the airline purchased four PW127 engines in 2015 from Pratt & Whitney, Canada. The PW127-powered aircraft AP-BHO (ATR) was damaged during a landing in Lahore on 30 May 2009.

Its engine failed in 2014. This aircraft crashed on December 7, 2016 while flying from Chitral to Islamabad. At the time of the accident, it had logged more than 18,700 flight hours.

It was noted in the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) report on ATR operations that CAA field airworthiness officers indicated ATR deficiencies that PIA CAA field airworthiness officer management system, non-compliance with regulatory requirements and the recommendations of the original equipment manufacturer. of ATR aircraft.

In addition, the CAA report involved that monitoring the health of the engines is the main data on the premature failure of the PW127 engines that the PIA had 20 in-flight shutdown incidents due to the failure of the turbine blades of high pressure.

Also, turbine failures, multiple engines failed due to bearing failure, high EGT, compressor overload, impeller seizure, auxiliary gearbox column shaft breakage , etc.

The total number of cases of removal of engines was 90 and most of the cases are attributed to all the installed engines, the internal conditions of the ATR engines through shake inspections were also not adequately carried out by PIA specialized personnel.

The audit required a record of the maintenance program and maintenance history of the ATR aircraft and their engines with financial impact that was not submitted for scrutiny.

“The audit finds that the PIA engines and ATR aircraft crashed due to inadequate maintenance, quality assurance, and ATR aircraft airworthiness management system, reflecting weak internal controls,” the audit said.

The matter was later reported to management on August 20, 2018. Management in its response stated that as per Pakistan Civil Aviation requirements, the engine data was sent to PWC for review and analysis. The PWC clears all engines.

However, the audit noted that the response was not sustainable as it did not provide details of the maintenance schedule and actual maintenance performed by ATRs on the PIAC fleet nor did it substantiate its response with documentary evidence.

The report further stated that the Accounting Director/Secretary of the Islamabad Aviation Division was requested to hold a Departmental Accounts Committee (DAC) meeting to finalize the audit report after the incorporation of the management point of view, but the PAO did not convene the DAC until the report was finalized.

The audit report further found irregularities and losses amounting to approximately Rs 20 billion.

The documents also reported irregular spending on aircraft engine repairs without public bidding that caused USD 126.8 million equivalent to Rs 12,681.53 million irregularities.

The management incurred expenses of around Rs 12,000 crore in repairing 23 aircraft engines of different brands without inviting open tender in breach of the 2004 PPRA Rules. 

In addition, one of the engines was beyond repair. of economic repair and was sent abroad for repair without any coordination and resulted in wasteful expenses in its transportation and payment of fees.

Another irregularity reported for USD 5,556 million in spending on the exchange of four engines. The audit noted that management entered into a swap agreement and purchased four engines in exchange for PIA’s main engines from M/s Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&W) with a financial impact of USD 5,556 million without open competitive bidding, thus , violating the rules of PPRA. 2004.

The audit also noted that seven engines were shipped overseas for repair in 2017, but were not received back within the usual three-month engine repair time, demonstrating poor operations and financial management.

In addition, the audit also noted that PIA purchased the Automatic Test Equipment Complex (ATEC) 5000 on July 13, 2007 for the Test Program Suite (TPS) along with the items needed to test the Line Replaceable Unit (LRU). 

The machine was installed in 2015 and has been idle since 2016, resulting in non-use of the machine worth USD 1,628 million equivalent to Rs 162.8 million.

Similarly, two engines were repaired at a cost of USD 3.9 equivalent to Rs 39.3 million which were later declared surplus/obsolete.

It was also noted that some inventory worth Rs 6,743 million expired without any use. Expired inventory items were to be disposed of after cancellation approval, which was also not done.

It was also noted that PIA management was unable to recover liquidated damages of Rs 28 million due to a significant delay in receiving different aircraft engines sent abroad for repair.

PIAC’s asset inventory reflects that it has different aircraft parts worth Rs 5,360.20 crore which are still sitting idle in the warehouse, despite the fact that the aircraft were decommissioned during 2005-2016.

The audit observed that the PIAC did not carry out the periodic inspection and therefore, there is inadequate asset management.

The audit also mentioned the unjustified purchase of decommissioned aircraft parts to the tune of Rs 226,591 million.

During the special audit of PIA’s Engineering and Maintenance Department, it was noted that PIA’s management did not perform any physical verification of the stores. Your inventory management is inappropriate as management is not using a barcode method of product identification. 

It was further noted that the existing PIA software, PIA Online Store System (POSS) has not been improved or updated for a long time. In addition, there is no optimal use of the services of a large number of employees in the IT department.

The audit noted that the PIA has not carried out regular inspections and therefore there is an excess balance of stores outside the maximum prescribed period. 

Additionally, management has not made optimal use of inventory management software and IT professionals to reduce inventory holding costs, retrieve spare parts information, indicating poor inventory management and existing poor internal controls. within the organization.

While speaking to this correspondent about the special audit, PIA spokesman Abdullah Khan said in the Commercial Audit For air accidents it is the mandate of the Aircraft Accident Investigation Board or the AAIB to probe and report on the causes of the accident since only they have the necessary experience to do it. 

They have already published their report. It has now been widely credited that the event leading up to the accident was a chain of unfortunate events that followed one another and there is no previously reported event of this kind that could have led to the development of contingencies or procedures that could have enabled the crew to avoid the accident. event.

In shipping engines overseas for overhaul and attributed losses, it is the prerogative of the engine lessor to choose the MRO facility to do so.

Delays may occur as PIA is a cash-strapped company and payments must be prioritized based on criticalities and the most urgent need of an operational nature. Sometimes aircraft are grounded for extended maintenance and engine overhaul may coincide with that, or aircraft may be fitted with new or leased engines, until overhauls are recovered. 

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