By Leithen Francis in Singapore
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) was last week forced to ground its Fokker F27 fleet in the wake of the loss of one of its aircraft, killing all 45 people on board.
The government decision results from safety concerns about the national carrier's ageing F27 fleet after the 10 July crash which occurred shortly after take-off from Multan airport in central Pakistan.
|The propeller appears feathered, suggesting non-rotation before crash|
The aircraft, a 42-year-old F27 Mk200 (AP-BAL), crashed around 2min after the take-off, says the Pakistani civil aviation authority. The twin turboprop was operating flight PK688 to Lahore with 41 passengers and four crew on board.
According to a PIA engineering source, the aircraft came down about 3-4km (1.5-2nm) from Multan airport.
Pakistani news reports quote witnesses as saying they observed flames from the aircraft and it was "tilted" to the right as it descended. It is said to have hit powerlines and then crashed into an orchard.
Pictures of the crashed aircraft appear to show the propeller of one engine feathered and largely undamaged, as if it were not rotating at impact.
The other Rolls-Royce Dart powerplant is not visible. The CAA declines to comment on whether both engines were working on impact. However, the aircraft's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder have been recovered from the wreckage and have been sent overseas for analysis.
The grounding of the airline's seven remaining F27s means that nearly a third of PIA's domestic flights have been cancelled and it is unclear if it can continue to serve some remote parts of the country.
PIA is now trying to serve the domestic sector primarily using its seven Boeing 737-300s, but has also called on Pakistan's air force to provide passenger services to the north of the country using Lockheed C-130 military transport aircraft. The airline is also seeking to accelerate deliveries of its remaining six ATR 42-500s on order and to take additional ATRs on interim leases.