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Pakistan International Airlines Grounds ATR Planes a Week After Crash

Pakistan International Airlines said Monday it has grounded all its ATR turboprop aircraft for checks, a week after one of the planes crashed, killing 48 people on board.

The country’s civil aviation regulator ordered “shakedown” tests of PIA’s entire ATR fleet after an engine on another of the planes stalled before take-off Sunday night. The move forced around a third of the airline’s flights to be cancelled and severed air connections to several parts of the country.

“It has been decided to keep all 10 ATR aircraft grounded till they are cleared after thorough examination,” the airline said in a statement Monday.

A PIA ATR-42 crashed last week in the northern district of Abbottabad. Azam Saigol, the airline chairman, said the pilot of the ill-fated flight had reported that one of the plane’s two engines had failed before the crash. A separate probe into the incident is ongoing.

Shakedown tests involve rigorous checks on all key systems on aircraft, PIA spokesman Danyal Gilani said. Mr. Gilani didn’t say when the testing will be completed, but said there will be “a massive impact on flight operations, with massive rescheduling.”

Pervez George, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, confirmed that thorough testing was ordered on all ATRs after the incident Sunday night.

State-owned PIA is the country’s largest airline, and twin-engine ATRs make up almost a third of its fleet. Air connections to several remote parts of Pakistan, including two destinations in the mountainous north, were cut because of the grounding Monday, as PIA is the only airline with regular service in those areas. Some flights to Afghanistan, the UAE and Oman were also affected.

ATR, based in Toulouse, France, is a joint venture between Airbus Group SE and Leonardo-Finmeccanica SpA of Italy. PIA operates the ATR-42 and the larger ATR-72 models. A company spokesman declined to comment on PIA’s decision to ground its ATR fleet.

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(via WSJ)