Why Did the Passenger Bridge Overturn at Islamabad Intl. Airport

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ISLAMABAD (Nov 24, 2018) — A parliamentary committee was told this week that design flaw in passenger boarding bridges led to the collapse of one of them at the newly built Islamabad International airport last month.

The bridge had been connected to Gulf Airline flight GF771 and was being removed by an operator. The flight had completed boarding and was ready to depart for Bahrain at the time of the incident.

Because of the incident and related safety issues, the Emirates airline has refused to use passenger boarding bridges at Pakistan airports.

PKonweb has learnt that the Emirates airline wants third party (independent) IATA-approved certification of the passenger bridges citing passenger for safety reasons.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is also IATA approved for inspections, but being the operator of the airport, the airline insist the inspection, approval and certification of all the bridges be done by an IATA-approved independent party–to avoid conflict of interest–a practice followed worldwide.

The 26 air bridges bought for the new Rs106 billion airport caters to passenger boarding via 15 gates. While two of the gates have 3 passenger boarding bridges each for A380 Airbus, all other gates have 2 bridges each.

According to the source, these bridges cost Rs6 billion (nearly 50 percent higher than the engineer’s estimate) and were purchased from the Spanish company Adelte.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Air Marshal Arshad Malik, told the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation that Emirates had announced its decision, citing safety standards as the reason. The committee met for a briefing on how the air bridge collapsed.

Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Hassan Baig said the overturning matter was under investigation. “We are looking into several possible reasons such as design faults, human error, maintenance problems as well as communication errors. It can be all four. But, so far it seems to be a design flaw,” said Mr Baig.

He explained to the committee that similar faults had been detected with air bridges at Karachi airport and Bacha Khan International Airport in Peshawar.

Whether the cost of repair of the damaged air bridge is covered under related Insurance Policy, is not known. Typically such a coverage do not address accidents due to human error by personnel or attributed  to design flaws–that’s manufacturer’s responsibility, said one professional with knowledge of airport operations and the incident.

According to the CAA official, a thorough report is due in the first week of December; however, the fault seemed to be in the design of the bridge — apparently, a loose pin, he said. “Similar design problems were detected at both the airports in Karachi and Peshawar,” said Mr Baig.

One Senator member of the committee however said that human error must not be ignored.

The source said inadequate training of personnel led to wrongful handling of the bridge which led to its overturning. There also has been gaps in maintenance cycle which did not help detect ‘loose pin’ at the said bridge–for the 6 months period prior to the incident, no operations and maintenance (O&M) were conducted, the source added.

Overturning occurs when a bridge is pushed into position or disengaged at a speed higher and relative to the angle than specified. Lots of training and practice are required–this aspect has been amiss, said the professional.

The damaged bridge repair work is estimated to cost roughly Rs30 million to Rs40 million (all inclusive) and may not be covered under warranty if it was due to poor workmanship or mishandling (human error)–unless it is proven beyond doubt that it was indeed “design fault” that led to the overturning, the source said.

A brand new one as replacement could cost as much as Rs230 million, the source said.

Mr Baig told the committee that remaining payments to Adelte had been suspended until the matter is resolved. In any case, according to the contract, the CAA is in a position to ask Adelte to extend the warranty period of the air bridge, he said.

The chairman of the committee, Senator Mushahidullah Khan urged Air Marshal Malik to take the matter seriously, according to Dawn. “Today Emirates has declined to use the air bridges, tomorrow other airlines may follow. The PIA can lose a lot of revenue,” said Mr Khan.

The airport has been built to handle nine million passengers and 50,000 metric tons of cargo initially.

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