National carrier Air India is all set to retire in a phased manner its over two-decades-old Airbus Classic A320 planes, which have seen frequent snags, starting this fiscal.
As many as four Classic A320s of the total 15 in the carrier’s fleet are expected to go out of the fleet during this fiscal while the rest will follow course, a senior Air India official said.
Dubbed as “lethal snag-prone” by the airline’s pilots body ICPA, three of these narrow-body, double bogie wheels aircraft are currently grounded for want of landing gears.
The classic A320, unlike modern aircraft, has a set of bogey wheels. Bogey wheels are a set of four tyres making up one wheel.
“We are going to take these planes out of the service from this (fiscal) year, in a gradual manner. We are looking at retiring four such A320s by March next year,” the official said.
The airline is aiming to do away with the entire aged fleet of the A320s by 2019, he said.
The Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), one of Air India’s pilots body; had in March last year urged the aviation regulator DGCA to ground these planes, saying “these 26-year-old planes are being operated with repetitive snags endangering flight safety.”
The DGCA should not permit AI to operate these “lethal snag-prone” classic aircraft in lieu of passenger safety”, it had said.
The government-run airline currently has 68 single-aisle Airbus 320 family planes in the fleet, with 15 of them classic A320s.
Besides, it plans to induct 29 more narrow-body aircraft over the next three years, of which 14 are to be latest fuel efficient A320 neo (new engine option).
“So far we were unable to replace these planes as taking them off would have resulted in reduction in capacity, particularly in the fast growing domestic market. But with as many as 19 more A320s going to join the fleet by 2019, the old planes can be retired without curtailing the schedule,” the official said.
Air India’s share in total domestic capacity stands at 14.5 per cent, according to the official.
“The phasing out of the old planes and introduction of new ones in their place will also reduce the average of the fleet substantially,” the official said.