Friday, July 20, 2007

MAS and FAX in dispute over poor condition of 12 planes and repair bill

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is not willing to put the lives of passengers at risk and wants the 12 aircraft, under dispute in an audit report by Singapore’s Fokker Services Asia Pte Ltd, repaired before it can begin rural air service (RAS) operations.

The service is scheduled to start on Oct 1.

At a briefing yesterday, members of the media were shown photographs of defects in some of the 12 aircraft.

Safety issue: These issued by MAS showing the condition of aircraft which the airline received to operate the rural air service.
Captions from the photographs read, “corrosion”, “cowing cannot be latched”, “bird’s nest found on one of the wings of the aircraft”, “(all kinds of joints) used to connect some parts of the aircraft”, “parts damaged” and “parts of carpet missing.”

MAS wants the 12 planes airworthy before it can start the service.

It estimates that repairs will cost RM40mil and its managing director Datuk Idris Jala said at the briefing that while the airline was prepared to undertake repairs, it would not pay for them.

“The repair works could affect the timing of our taking over the RAS, as four of the seven Fokker 50 are not working and the condition of the aircraft is bad,” said MAS executive director and CFO Tengku Datuk Azmil Zahruddin at the same briefing.

He said only 80% of the aircraft would be ready by Oct 1 and “MAS would be (more) comfortable starting operations on Dec 1.”

The whole dispute surrounds the taking over of RAS by MAS.

»Up to February, the planes were in good condition« IDRIS JALA
RAS is a service provided by the Government to connect several remote parts of Sabah and Sarawak.

MAS operated the service for decades, but on Aug 1, 2006, Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) got the rights to manage RAS and was given 12 aircraft – seven Fokker 50 (F50) and five Twin Otters – to operate the service.

MAS maintained all the planes for FAX up to Feb 26.

FAX claimed that MAS had overcharged and decided to outsource maintenance of the planes after February.

FAX also alleged that MAS did not give the records of aircraft for smooth maintenance by the third parties, despite several requests.

“Up to February, the planes were in good condition,” Idris said.

Due to several factors and continued flight delays, the Government in April asked MAS to take over RAS from October 1.

MAS requested Fokker Services to conduct an audit, the findings of which are being disputed by FAX.

The Fokker Services report revealed that four of the seven F50 and one of the five Twin Otters operated by FAX had been heavily cannibalised.

MAS, in its statement, reiterated that one aircraft had been cannibalised of both of its engines, both propellers and had 70 parts missing.

This has been vehemently disputed by FAX which, in a statement earlier, said that over the past 11 months of operations, FAX had to overhaul six F50 engines and four Twin Otters engines, four F50 propellers and three Twin Otters propellers, and two Twin Otters landing gear, among others.

FAX said it did not cannibalise aircraft parts but rather rotated parts from airplanes coming in for maintenance to service those coming out of maintenance.

The issue now is who should fork out the RM40mil required to make the planes airworthy – FAX or Penerbangan Malaysia Bhd (PMB)?

“It is a contract between PMB and FAX, but whoever uses the aircraft has to bear the cost,” Idris said.

“Given that the services were subsidised, we suspect FAX might be asking for payment and compensation from the Government (as the contract to operate the services for several years will now be terminated in October.”

That aside, FAX when taking over the planes initially from PMB, did not do an audit check although Azmil claimed yesterday that the “planes that we handed PMB were airworthy.”

Asked if it was cheaper to lease other planes than to repair the 12, Idris said that, “it is still cheaper to repair them. But we are talking to PMB to replace the fleet (F50 and Twin Otters) and talks are ongoing.”

Even though the planes are between 15 and 20 years old now, Idris said that they were still reliable and could be flown for another five to 10 years.

Source : STAR
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