All Russian aircraft at Pakistani airports have been grounded. The move comes after a Russian-made Ilyushin IL-76 cargo plane operated by a Georgian company Sunway airlines crashed in a residential neighbourhood of Karachi, killing eight crewmembers and three men on the ground.
Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Pervez George told The Express Tribune that apart from four AN-26 cargo planes at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, several other aircraft in Lahore, Peshawar and Islamabad have been grounded for “technical reasons.”
Elaborating, George said the technical reasons could mean anything from technical faults in the aircraft to invalid travel documents and unspecified cargo.
There is no restriction on Russian aircraft landing in the country. However, once they land, they would have to go through stringent checks and prove their valid documents, the spokesperson said, adding that the new directives come from the ‘top’. George said all grounded planes were being thoroughly checked at the moment. “We can terminate the license of the airliner if we find that all procedures have not been followed.”
A senior civil aviation official, who wished not to be named, said that previously the operating procedures for such cargo planes that mostly arrived from the UAE and Afghanistan were very relaxed. So much so that no Pakistani engineers had checked for technical faults in the last aircraft that crashed and the cargo was also not checked.
Russian consulate press attaché Alex Zenkoe said the Pakistani authorities have not informed the diplomatic mission about the restrictions in writing, though he admitted that ‘some verbal’ communications has taken place. Zenkoe also said that the IL-76 was being operated by a Georgian airliner Sunway, so why the restrictions on Russian airplanes. He questioned why his country’s aircraft were being singled out when almost any plane in the world could crash, including the recent Airblue tragedy in Islamabad that involved an Airbus aircraft.
George clarified that the restrictions would not apply on commercial airliners. “Only non-scheduled flights would be affected by the new directives,” he said.(ET)