July 30, 2010

When a bird becomes an elephant

By Habib R. Sulemani

Good heavens! We escaped an air disaster on Friday. Fortunately, the over 421 passengers and crewmembers of Boeing 747 of the government-owned Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) were able to see their near and dear ones again!

This is the second shocking incident in our airline industry within two days. It happened in Karachi, the financial capital of our country. Earlier, 152 people had lost their lives in the aircrash in Islamabad, the political capital of Pakistan.

Initial reports say that a bird struck the Lahore-bound aircraft and with a loud blast, the engine caught fire. Luckily rescuers reached in time and extinguished the flames.

This latest incident shows that we’ve some serious flaws in our air-safety system, which needs to be addressed immediately.

I’ve not visited Karachi since 1992. But some years back, I came to know that our Parsi community's burial place, Tower of Silence, was near the airport. In the Zoroastrian tradition, dead bodies are left exposed to birds in the open. If it is true, then the tower could be shifted to somewhere else after consultations with this peaceful community that has contributed a lot to the city and our country.

However, after googling the web, I found that the Boeing 747 was produced in the late 1960s and entered service with Pan American Airlines in 1970. Thus age of the aircraft can be the main reason for the fire!

I want to say again: It’s time for the officers with intoxicating salary packages to come to their senses (see yesterday’s blog)! The government should properly investigate both incidents. It must bring reforms in the aviation. Change is a must for the national flag-carrier to get its lost glory back. Remember: it takes no time for a bird to become an elephant in the airline industry!

1- Dawn: http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/metropolitan/14-pia-plane-engine-catches-fire-at-karachi-airport-zj-05
2- Flight Global: http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2007/06/03/216270/boeing-747-aircraft-profile.html

1 comment:

  1. I guess the question becomes if we can afford to replace the fleet or if it's better to shut PIA down or find someone to sell it. The age of the aircraft is usually a random indicator due to the number of times it goes through refurbishments and updates. I can't recall the last time a plane crashed in Pakistan (Zia?), so all in all, our safety record isn't horrible.

    I doubt the Tower of Silence has anything to do with anything.

    We ought to be grateful to the workers who put the fire out immediately and prevented loss of life.