16th January 2021: Senior anchorperson Mubasher Lucman has elucidated the story behind the impounding of a PIA jet in Malaysia. 14 hours after the incident, deliberation led to the boarding of all passengers on two separate flights bound for Pakistan.
He said that in his opinion, certain blame does lie with the PIA as well but much of it should be placed in CAA’s lap. Both planes have the call signs Alpha Bapa; one being BMG and one BMH. Both these jets did not have an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) since day 1. The EFB is a modern computer that enables a cockpit to become paperless. Because of these antics, PIA to this day has to pay a 50,000 Euro fine every month.
His observations made on his YouTube channel, continue, as spoken…
It may be remembered that PIA purchased 500 iPads for pilots alone, and also purchased them for the first-class. They acquired the On-Board Performance Tool, without the EPB. Who is responsible for these shenanigans and who is the mastermind?
Now let’s explore the options for the way ahead. First, it is critical to form a JIT to probe corruption and mismanagement both in the PIA and the CAA. The JIT should be composed of aviation experts. It is obvious that either corruption, or plain ineptitude featured in the lease of Boeing 777 by the management of the time whose praises are sung to this day. This being such a specialised field, it is easy for CAA to continue to hoodwink the aviation ministry and Secretary Aviation. Only when CAA officials are properly investigated will it become clear why they are perpetually hostile toward the aviation industry in general and airlines in particular.
When these 777 jets were leased there was no feasibility study done regarding whether they are even suitable for Pakistan. For example, only two out of seven have rest areas for pilots. Imagine a scenario when you are on a direct flight to Toronto. In that situation you typically take two teams of crew. One flies while the other rests. With the already thin fleet, it is a scheduling nightmare for flight operations. On top of that, if one plane goes for maintenance, there are major problems.
Then those jets that lack CPDLC (Controller Pilot Data Link Communications) cannot fly over Europe. This means that on the face of it, you have acquired a Boeing 777, but it is not fulfilling your logistical requirements. To add insult to injury, in order to hide their corruption or ineptitude, as the case may be, they have started operating this long-haul aircraft over short domestic hops. What this does is, age the equipment in terms of jet cycles that have an adverse impact on structural integrity in a scenario where we are already not known for maintenance excellence.
Then from the financial angle, these lease contracts were sighed in a way that they were overwhelmingly tipped in favour of the lessor as opposed to the lessee (PIA). Axiom Bank has a major role in that it provided loans for the lease at 4% interest at the time. This was a criminal rate for the time because major carriers Emirates, Qatar, and Turkish Airlines, all took out financing for jets at no more than 1.5% interest. On top of that, whichever criminal elements were responsible for the signing of these contracts, did not account for an exit clause, and the termination clause is all in favour of the leasing company.
The Premier service to Sri Lanka on an A330 much touted by Maryam Nawaz and launched amidst much fanfare, was scrapped within months. However, it has left a legacy of financial disaster behind it, having been inaugurated without any feasibility study. The fallback is entirely on the taxpayer with the airline indebted for 450 billion already.
The reason? To grant the whole aviation to one man, Shujaat Azeem, who was yes-man to the Sharifs. He was heading both the regulator, CAA, and the regulated (the operator PIA), which was a unique position to play havoc with the skies. He exploited his position to award all contracts to his own company, Royal Aviation Services. This same company is damaging student aviation because any student on a domestic flight has to pay them 300 dollars for tarmac services that would otherwise not be available. What this does is to kill off aviation at the nursery level.
God bless the Supreme Court for more than once bailing out Pakistan and among other things removing Shujaat Azeem, but what to talk of letting him leave the country after all his well-documented and well-threshed-out corruption over the Islamabad Airport? Why is it that the perpetrators of that corruption were never brought to book? To make matters worse, his company is to this day operating at that airport? His company is earning revenue at an airport that has major construction flaws, thanks to his own mismanagement. A man who was ill-qualified for these critical posts was made Special Assistant to the Prime Minister and guess who was responsible? Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif!
In fact, all contracts signed during this time, including those regarding Airbus jets and Boeing jets, should be thoroughly investigated. AirBlue was at the time acquiring jets for $1750 per hour at a minimum guarantee of 100 hours, and yet PIA was acquiring jets at $2750 per hour with a minimum guarantee of 250 hours. How does this make sense?
Then the CAA under its open sky policy allows every foreign airline to operate from Pakistan. Emirates is given 7 different touch-downs in Pakistan. This is a written, not an unwritten rule of international aviation, that the number of touchdowns between countries has to be reciprocated. PIA gets a touchdown in Dubai alone even though there are seven Emirates. How is the already struggling national carrier to survive amidst such formidable competition? Nowhere in the world is an open sky policy pursued, but Shujaat Azeem instituted one in Pakistan in order to bring revenue for his Royal Airport Services, and we all know how Shujaat Azeem got his position. He is a unique person internationally who was controlling both the operator and the regulator.
Up till now with one or two exceptions, all DGs of CAA have been political appointees, enjoying perks and privileges at the expense of the taxpayer. So much so that lone men would go to look at jets who had no connection to flying or training or any other aviation-related capability.
I have repeatedly said that if the government, the judiciary, and the agencies had heeded what I said in my programs, the ATR crash resulting in the loss of precious lives would not have happened. In fact some persons in a position of responsibility actually tried to silence me, what to talk of taking action. I can say with assurance that none of the top appointees over CAA have been chosen on merit, including air-worthiness inspectors.
Under these circumstances, why will planes not crash? Why will airports not be in a shambles? Why will runways not be in a bad condition? As the aviation industry struggles, these officials of CAA continue to enjoy their perks.
If we insist on bringing in all international airlines and allowing our own to suffer, why don’t we also bring in the police and justice system of the developed world? Why don’t we bring in a parliament from there too, that is much better at legislation? If our excuse for bringing them in is that our own airline isn’t good enough, then it follows that everything else should also be imported, including anchors and analysts and senators. Schools, hospitals, and jails should also be taken from outside.
CAA in the meantime is evading IASA (International Aviation Safety Assessment) and its tough questions because they don’t have anyone qualified to answer those questions and address the objections. Airlines have to suffer for the CAA failing to meet international standards.
CAA is now looking to develop the Walton Airport even though it is legally not permitted to deal with land for any purpose other than for what it is created, being an authority. Yet residential schemes have been made in the past around the Lahore airport that contribute among other things to bird hits.
In conclusion, it is my message to Air Marshall Arshad Malik to please run an airline like an airline and not like a ‘Karvaan Bus Service’. Do not try to go into profit earning by not paying the albeit non-banking channel airspace fee for Iran, lease payments, and employee allowances.
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