The Curious Case Of The Missing PIA Airbus A310

It goes without saying that large commercial passenger aircraft are generally well tracked and monitored. However, it seems that, at some point, the whereabouts of a Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A310 was unknown. Now, court documents made public Wednesday allege that the former CEO of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) took the Airbus A310 to Germany where it was then sold for a total of US$1.4 million.

The Curious Case Of The Missing PIA Airbus A310
The missing aircraft was a PIA Airbus A310. Photo: Faisal Akram via Wikimedia Commons

According to Pakistan Today, the Airbus A310 was allegedly taken to Germany by its former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bernd Hildenbrand. The allegations are being made by the airline. Upon arrival in Germany, PIA alleges that the aircraft was sold for 190 million Pakistani rupees – the equivalent of US$1.2 million. Apparently, before the full sale, the plane also earned $200,000 while being rented out to a film company – making a total of $1.4 million.

“The plane was not missing but sold as it completed its tenure in 2016,” – Pakistan International Airlines via court statement

Additional details

Having allegedly been sold in 2016 in Germany, the aircraft was then chartered by a British company in 2017 for use in a film. The film was shot in Malta. Following this, the aircraft flew to Germany – to the Leipzig Halle Airport museum and was then sold to the airport. Reports obtained by Pakistan Today indicate that the 30-year old aircraft was no longer airworthy and was grounded.

According to a 2018 article by CH-Aviation, the deal did not include the entire aircraft as the two General Electric CF6-80C2A8 engines were acquired separately by ULS Airlines Cargo, a Turkish cargo company.

There is some conflicting information about this situation. Within the two-year-old report, it says that both the airframe and the engines were sold in competitive bidding under the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules. This is according to PIA spokesperson at the time, Mashood Tajwar. It also says that the aircraft was sold for only 5.6 million Pakistani rupees – or US$46,100.

With the deal being authorized by the then CEO, Bernd Hildenbrand, and Hildenbrand being investigated for embezzlement, we get a better picture of what could have happened. With the actual payment price and the stated payment price being so vastly different, one could surmise that Hildenbrand underreported the sale price and pocketed the difference.

The Curious Case Of The Missing PIA Airbus A310
At one point the airline had as many as 13 Airbus A310s. Photo: Contri via Wikimedia Commons

The ongoing court case

Last week, during a previous hearing, the Pakistani Supreme Court was deliberating whether or not the sale of the aircraft should be recognized as a national offense. The aircraft was, in fact, a public asset. Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, expressing surprise with PIA’s casual attitude towards the case, asked PIA if other airlines around the world have ever had their CEO sell off a plane “just like that”.

The Curious Case Of The Missing PIA Airbus A310
It’s not every day a former employee sells an airline’s aircraft. Photo: Aleksandr Markin via Wikimedia Commons

Conclusion

The airline says its administration is cooperating in the investigation. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB) are investigating the matter before new management takes over.

The A310 took its first flight in 1992 and has the registration AP-BEQ. Airfleets currently shows the aircraft is still the property of Leipzig Airport.

Do you think the former Pakistan International Airlines CEO will be found guilty? What should the consequences be if he is? Let us know in the comments.

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