LAHORE – PIA management is spending 70 percent of its maintenance cost on repair/ overhaul of engines and aircraft components. Engineering budget is almost $150 million out of which $100 million (approx) is being consumed in this regard, said sources in the airlines on Friday.

They said that there are different reasons in turning the national flag carrier with a slogan “Great people to fly with” to an airline posting a loss of more than Rs 120 billion including, corruption, nepotism, favoritism, preferential treatment, dishonesty, unjustified political interference and no respect to merit but the main reason is high and escalating cost on the maintenance of aircrafts.

PIA was one of the top airline as long as PIA was operating aircraft having those engines which were being maintained and overhauled in-house, e.g. in the decades of 70s and 80s PIA was operating F-27s , A300s, DC-10s, B-707s, B-737s and B-747s (Combi) having in-house repair/ overhaul facilities for engines and other components. During the evaluation process of the aircraft the prime importance was given to the aircraft having commonality with the existing fleet and engines which can locally be maintained/ overhauled and the facility for repair/ overhaul can be developed through transfer of technology. The farsightedness of PIA management in 70s can be appreciated for the decision of developing test bench of engines having maximum of 50 thousand pound thrust, a senior PIA officer maintained.

Unfortunately, PIA management of 90s made the decision of inducting A310 with CF6-80C2 engines and B-747-200 with JT9D engines and PIA had no in-house facility for repair and overhaul of above mentioned engines. Further no efforts were initiated to develop in-house facility for these engines at that time, while the in-house facility was developed after a delay of 16 years i.e. in 2007, sending the engines to outside party resulted in ending profit-making days of PIA.

The lesson was not learnt and instead of correcting mistakes committed in 90s, PIA management further took decisions which  increased losses tremendously. For example, PIA opted for B-747-300 with Rolls Royce RB211 engines, maintenance cost of these engines being very high, very few airlines opted to use these engines. Further PIA had no in-house facility for repair/ overhauling of these engines. PIA used to pay $5 to 7 million per engine to vendor for repair/ overhaul in past. Moreover, induction of B-777s having worth of $170 million each, PIA faced a huge financial crisis as PIA is paying installment in addition to $7 to 8 million per engine on the repair of GE90 engines. It is worth mentioning that now PIA is not in a position for further experiments that will further incur the losses of PIA.

Today PIA is rightly in the process of expanding and replacing the fleet, to a fleet that shall be more fuel efficient, low in maintenance cost and can assist the PIA to become an airline viable and profitable. Now it is high time to make a correct decision and A320 aircraft with Rolls Royce V2500 engines which can neither be repaired and overhaul locally nor IAE is ready to transfer this facility to PIA, these engines will have to visit either New Zealand or Holland and approximately $1 million will be spent only on transportation for the overhauling. Another drawback of these type of engines is dual stage HPT concept which will increase the number of LLPs (Life Limited Parts) as these LLPs have to be replaced on each overhaul. This will increase maintenance cost by $0.3 million over and above the charges for normal overhauling.

This is the very reason why Air Blue (Private Airline) got rid of these engines by replacing them with CFM engines.

Another A-320 aircraft with CFM56-5B engines, which can be repaired and overhauled in-house by upgrading the existing setup of CFM engines in engine overhaul shop. A third option is that B-737-800 aircraft with CFM 56 -5B engines these engines can be repaired and overhauled in-house by modifying the existing setup of CFM engines in engine overhaul shop. As we are already operating B-737-300 aircrafts so 20pc parts commonality can be availed by opting for this aircraft, said sources in the airlines.