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Returning Safely to the sky after the Pandemic

Pakistan International Airlines Flight PK8303 crashed during a “Go-around” after a, widely reported, “wheels up” on their first approach. The Airbus A320 slid on its nacelles at the airport in Karachi for more than three hundred meters before getting airborne again. Sometime during the go-around the engines quit and the aircraft crashed just short of the airport in a residential area talking 97 souls, four people on the ground were also treated for severe burns.

The aircraft and crew were reportedly making their first flight in over two months due to the Covid -19 restrictions. One must ask the question did this have an effect on either the crew or the aircraft leading up to this tragedy?

Boeing have expressed concern regarding the return to the air of aircraft that have been inactive for a period of time and in response are sending technical teams to assist the process. The details about the return to the air of this particular aircraft are sketchy at best, I believe we will have to wait for the official crash investigation report for finality.

As with the aircraft similar concerns are present for pilots that find themselves back in the cockpit after a lengthy absence. Flying is a skill that has to be kept current, after any lengthy downtime the crew should be mandated to a simulator re-currency before taking to the air.

As it stands pilots in South Africa, with the exception of reparation and some cargo flights, have been effectively grounded for over two months, which can lead to the very real phenomenon known as “rusty pilot” not to mention the risk of taking an aircraft that hasn’t flown for such a long period into the air.

It is estimated that about half the world’s fleet is grounded due to the pandemic, some of those are in long-term storage, with the engines preserved and all fuel and oil removed. When it’s time for all these planes to start flying again, it will take some time to get them back into flying mode.

Unfortunately, it’s not likely that all airline employees will be coming back on the work. It is estimated that most carriers will be about 30% smaller after the pandemic, not to mention the other challenges experienced at SAA, SAX, and the recent announcement made by Comair entering business rescue.

Overall the Aviation Industry as a whole is facing a bleak future with an exceptionally long recovery period made worse by the challenges of the restart of operations. This may well prove a bridge too far for many local and international operators.

Franz Smit from PilotInsuer will be hosting a Webinar on this very subject on Thursday evening, please book your spot for this very informative session which will include some heavy hitters in the South African Aviation Industry (Click the pic below to book your place)

Franz Smit



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