French plane maker Airbus, which was in talks with state-owned airline Air India to extend the life cycle of its aircraft, has got approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to extend the life of at least three planes nearing 20 years of age.
Officials at the ministry of civil aviation confirmed that Airbus has been granted approval to extend the life of three A-320 aircraft, which are nearing its dying age. “The approval has been given to extend the life by one-and-half years. These aircraft need to be in air till Air India replaces the old fleet by new leased aircraft,” said officials.
Air India has a family of 62 narrow body aircraft, from the A-320 family, which officials said is the lifeline of domestic air travel. Nineteen out of these have an average age of 18.5 years, which needs to me replaced. The government has already given the beleaguered carrier which is grappling to compete with private airlines with a younger fleet like IndiGo, Go Air and SpiceJet, to replace the fleet with leased planes.
“The process has already started — Air India has already received two leased aircraft, three will come in by next year,” said officials. Meanwhile, the tendering process of the remaining 14 aircraft is in works, which are expected to come in next three years.It has been known that Air India is also talking to extend the life of its remaining aging fleet with Airbus to bridge the gap of the arrival of the new planes and continue to operate the existing fleet.
In current situation, any of the A-320s that Air India needs to replace has flying age of 60,000 kms. Almost all of the planes have flown more than a lakh km.
This is one of the main reasons why many of the Air India planes are often grounded, said experts.
FE earlier reported that at anytime 10 of the Air India planes remains grounded. Airbus will do fatigue testing for these aircraft before extending the life of the remaining aging fleet. Officials said the process is on way, but the approvals will happen only after the DGCA has done the final checks.