Pakistan's national carrier PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) said on Monday (12 December) that it has decided to ground all its 10 French-built ATR turboprop planes to hold shakedown tests. The decision follows a fatal crash that killed all 48 on board last week.
PIA flight PK661 burst into flames prior to crashing into a hillside shortly after taking off from the country's northern city of Chitral en route to the capital Islamabad on 7 December. One of the two turboprop engines of the airline reportedly failed.
PIA said it grounded its flights after the country's Civil Aviation Authority decided to conduct shakedown tests of its entire ATR fleet.
The airline has decided to keep all 10 ATR aircraft grounded "till they are cleared after thorough examination", Pakistan-based Dawn newspaper reported.
It added that the "temporary suspension of ATR operation" will affect PIA's flights to airports like Mohenjo Daro, Zhob, Panjgur, Turbat, Gwadar, Bahawalpur, Chitral and Gilgit.
According to reports, another ATR aircraft experienced technical issues shortly before take-off on Sunday night. The ATR-42 flight, a twin turboprop regional aircraft of PIA, was carrying 48 people bound for Karachi from Multan.
PIA denied media reports that the flight's engine had caught fire. Spokesman Danyal Gilani told Dawn that the pilot had to abort take-off and bring the airplane back to the bay after finding that one of its engines was faulty.
This incident came less than a week after the PK 661 plane crash, which killed a singer-turned-evangelist Junaid Jamshed and his wife, along with 46 others. The bodies of all the victims were reportedly charred beyond recognition.
While Pakistani authorities are investigating the cause of the crash, the airline has so far declined to comment.
The ATR aircraft are reported to be capable of operating on both paved and unpaved airstrips. Their engines are built by US manufacturer Pratt & Whitney. Most of the ATR planes used by PIA are thought to be for short-haul flights.