Muscat: The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane that 'crash-landed' at Muscat International Airport on Monday was an ageing 21-year-old aircraft purchased in the late 1990s from Boeing, according to Mashood Tajwar, General Manager of Corporate Communications, PIA.
Speaking to Times of Oman from Karachi, he clarified that the incident at Muscat airport was not a 'crash-landing', and rather it was a normal landing, but the plane's front landing gear collapsed after the touchdown. "Three of our engineers are in Muscat right now to get the details of the damaged aircraft," he said.
He pointed out that all the six 737-300 aircraft used by the PIA are quite old as they were purchased more than 20 years ago.
"The landing gear of the aircraft was inspected in December 2012," the PIA general manager added.
The most glaring aspect of the incident is the collapse of the left main gear during the landing. "Landing gears are built to take a lot of abuse. So I do not think the failure arose from a botched landing. I think the gears might have collapsed due to the use of substandard grease, required for lubricating the plane during landing," an engineer involved in the aircraft repair work said on the condition of anonymity.
Officials noted that landing-gear components wear out over time. "On Boeing 737s, the landing gear must be regularly overhauled. All the moving parts must be taken off for change. It is normal for cracks to develop. Initial investigations suggest the down lock, retract actuator and drag brace have been broken. These components do not support the (plane's) weight directly, but they support side loads.
"Then, there are issues with the grease," the engineer remarked.
Officials are trying to find out when the landing gear was last overhauled. "Since the plane is 21 years old, it may have been overhauled recently, or it could have been due for an overhaul soon but somehow got delayed," an official stated. PIA, however, claimed that a check-a-repair, which doesn't include the landing gear, was conducted on January 13, 2013.
The engineer also said that he had seen numerous landing-gear collapses. "However, this is an exception since the gear folded inwards into the stored position," he added.
He also pointed out that "excessive banking" might have caused the left engine to scrape the runway. "But in this case, there is no trace on the ground," he affirmed.
According to officials, the aircraft is now resting on its left engine after it was towed away from the runway. "As far as damage to the plane is concerned, the left engine, left main gear and possibly the left wing (have been affected) due to the stress of dragging along the runway," a senior official at the airport claimed.
Bashiruddin Khan, PIA country manager in Oman, said the company is trying to fix the aircraft. Another official remarked that the tyres didn't show any signs of being blown up or damaged, which confirmed that the collapse had happened near the very end of
the roll-out. "This collapse wasn't a crash. There was no indication of fire or additional danger," he added.