NEW DELHI: National carrier Air India has got the go-ahead from European aircraft maker Airbus to use three of its ageing A320s for a longer duration, even as the state-run airline is in the process of replacing the entire fleet of these planes with new fuel-efficient aircraft.
The move, which is subjected to DGCA approval, would allow Air India to fly these planes by another one-and half year than mandated operational life, aviation ministry sources said.
Significantly, one of Air India's pilots body, Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) had in March this year asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to ground these more than a two decades old classic A320s, citing safety issues.
"Air India had invited a team from Airbus to inspect these three A320 aircraft and evaluate whether scheduled maintenance period of these planes can be extended. After aircraft stress and structural analysis, Airbus approved aircraft's operational life beyond the scheduled period," a source said.
The government-owned airline, however, can fly these planes beyond their operational life once the DGCA approves the same, they said.
The current operational life of an Airbus A320 stands at 48,000 flight cycles and 60,000 flight hours.
Of the 20 A320s in Air India's fleet of 103 planes, six are 26 years old, while seven planes are in service since 21 years. Besides, seven of these planes were manufactured in 1993 while one A320 belongs to 1990, according to the DGCA website.
The A320 plane (VT-ESI), which was involved in an incident at the Delhi Airport early this week was also of 1994 make.
Air India is already in the process of replacing about a third of its narrow-body (A320) planes which are more than 20 years old with new fuel efficient planes.
As part of the plan, the airline has already inducted three sharklets-equipped A320 ceo (current engine option) aircraft in the fleet, of the five such planes, for which it has tied up with the Chinese lessor China Aircraft Leasing Company.
The rest two planes are expected to be delivered by October.
Besides, Air India would dry-lease 14 Airbus A320 planes from a Kuwaiti lessor, which are scheduled to be delivered to Air India between April 2017 and March 2018.