Idling aircraft ready to fly

The planes are normally rotated for any available flights to maintain a balance of utilisation and wear and tear in the fleet

by LYDIA NATHAN / pic by BLOOMBERG

AIRPLANES left idle on the tarmac after thousands of flights were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic are safe to fly.

Former Malaysian Airlines Bhd chief pilot Datuk Captain Nik Ahmad Huzlan Nik Hussain said the airline industry and the aircraft remain safe as parked planes continue to follow stringent guidelines and are ready for service.

“The aircraft are normally rotated for any available flights. The purpose is to maintain a balance of utilisation and wear and tear in the fleet. This also enables the maintenance schedule to be more organised and efficient,” he told The Malaysian Reserve in an email reply.

Nik Ahmad Huzlan said despite some of the aircraft being put on long-term parking status, these planes will be required to undertake certain procedures before they are allowed to fly.

“Some aircraft are parked strategically, as in being mothballed, but all aircraft will have stringent procedures for preparation before they are allowed to re-enter the service. There may be minor snags due to lack of utilisation, but generally, the aircraft will be safe for scheduled use,” he said.

Nik Ahmad Huzlan said recovery of the airline sector will occur although at a slower rate. “This will give time for normalisation while providing a decent timeline for adaptation. None of the systemic environment, be it from regulatory engineering compliance, air traffic control and/or the ‘human software’ (cockpit and cabin crew, and engineering personnel), has been severely compromised if at all,” he said.

He added that regulatory authorities must ensure that in the quest for financial normalcy, carriers must comply with the safety requirements.

In an analysis undertaken by the Air Transport Action Group, the sector is expected to lose 46 million jobs, including positions related to airlines, airport operations, civil aerospace manufacturers and air traffic management.

Nik Ahmad Huzlan said fulfilling the roles in the future would not be difficult as many in the sector have been retrenched.

“In Malaysia presently, there are more qualified and experienced pilots available than ever before. This will be strengthened by the return of Malaysian pilots who were let go by international carriers. It is also a similar situation for engineering positions,” he said.

An analyst said it is even safer now because the aircraft are not being used as often.

“There is no need to be concerned. If you ask me, it is definitely safe. Aircraft undergo stringent processes before they are being used to fly. Additionally, airlines will start rehiring once travel resumes and the industry stabilises,” the analyst said.