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July 17, 2000
Crashed plane was to be phased out by year end
The Boeing 737-200 which crashed at Patna Monday was to be phased out by the end of the year as per government guidelines which do not allow aircraft beyond 20 years to operate in the skies.
Indian Airlines is presently in the process of aircraft evaluation to replace all its 737s and A 300s by the year 2002. The report of the committee is expected in August.
The aircraft was one of the four that was purchased in 1980. Subsequently in 1981 and 1982 eight more Boeing 737-200s were inducted into the airline in batches of four.
Of the eight crashes involving Indian Airlines since 1973, six of them have been Boeing 737s.
The Boeing has been a mainstay of Indian Airlines with the carrier at one time having as many as 30.
While the Directorate General of Civil Aviation does not allow aircraft beyond 20 to operate in Indian conditions, worldwide the 737-200 is still flying although the manufacturers themselves do not make it anymore.
Boeing now makes the next generation 737-600, 700, 800 and 900 models which the American manufacturer claims has outsold all other aircraft in their market segment.
In fact, the manufacturers say that the 737 series primarily a short-to-medium haul plane is the most widely sold commercial jet aircraft in aviation history because of versatality, reliability, fuel-efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Besides the 737-200s, Indian Airlines is also operating nine A300s which were inducted between 1976 and 1982. It also has 30 A320s purchased between 1989 and 1994.
All the 737-200s have been with Alliance Air, a wholly owned subsidiary of Indian Airlines which was launched in 1996.
Cash has been a big constraint in the phasing out process of these aircraft. The sale of old 737s and A300s is expected to bring in just about Rs 5 billion while the cost of buying even half the aircraft required to maintain operations would be in the region of Rs 25 billion.
In March, Indian Airlines opened bids from Airbus and Boeing for a 2 billion dollar order involving the purchase of 40 aircraft. The order involves purchase of 15 100-seater, 17 180-seater and 8 15-seater planes. While Boeing has offered Boeing 717, 737-800 and 737-900s, Airbus has projected their A318/319, A320 and A321 aircraft.
The manufacturers have provided information regarding performance guarantee, maintenance guarantee and spares support along with the financial bids.
After a decision is taken by the evaluation company, it will have to be approved by the Indian Airlines board and civil aviation ministry before being cleared by the Union Cabinet.
However, with the disinvestment process underway it is anybody's guess whether Indian Airlines's aircraft acquisition programme takes off immediately.
See full coverage of the Alliance Air crash
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