Go First can’t fly lessors’ aircraft as of now: HC

The Delhi High Court Thursday said scheduled maintenance cannot be understood to include flying of aircraft and restrained crisis-hit Go First airline to continue with maintenance flights.

The high court said the resolution professional (RP) appointed under the insolvency law to manage the airline has not been able to show any urgency or any grave imminent threat to the aircraft compelling the RP to fly them suddenly and without any prior notice.

Justice Tara Vitasta Ganju, who had on July 28 directed that status quo be maintained in respect of handling/non-revenue flights of the petitioner lessors’ aircraft till August 3, extended the interim order till further orders.

The high court termed as “misconceived” the contention of the RP that 2 of the 10 aircraft have been flown by Go Airlines as these were handling flights forming part of the scheduled maintenance activity for an aircraft.

“The respondent no.9/ RP of Go Airlines has also not been able to show any urgency or any grave imminent threat to these aircraft to suddenly and without any prior notice, compel the respondent no.9 RP to fly these aircraft.

“Prima facie, the term – scheduled maintenance cannot be understood to include flying the aircraft even if it is a non-commercial flight. Thus, respondent no.9/ RP of Go Airlines cannot be permitted at this stage, to continue with these handling/maintenance flights,” Justice Ganju said.

The interim order was passed on an application filed by SMBC Aviation Capital Limited, one of the lessors of aircraft, submitting that disregarding the earlier directions of the court, the RP has flown 2 aircraft owned by the petitioners without court’s permission.

The plea said in the July 5 order, the court had passed directions that once the process of deregistration of aircraft has begun, the planes cannot be flown.

The counsel for the RP submitted that there was urgency to enable the aircraft to be flight ready in terms of the Resumption Plan as approved by the DGCA on July 21 and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) also required the airline to undertake handling or maintenance flights satisfactorily.

In an interim order passed on July 5, the single judge had allowed the lessors to inspect their aircraft at least twice a month and carry out the maintenance work.

The order by the single judge was passed on petitions by several lessors seeking de-registration of their planes by aviation regulator DGCA so they could take them back from the airline.

The July 5 order was challenged by the RP before the division bench which had permitted the airline to carry out maintenance of aircraft leased to it while allowing the lessors to inspect the planes periodically.

During the hearing on Thursday, the counsel for the RP of the airline informed the high court that they have challenged the division bench’s July 12 order before the Supreme Court.

While granting interim relief on July 5, the single judge had asked the DGCA to permit the lessors, their employees and agents to access the airport where their aircraft are currently parked and to inspect.

Earlier, the NCLT-appointed resolution professional, tasked with managing Go First, had told the high court that returning aircraft to the lessors will render the airline, which has 7,000 employees to look after, “dead”.

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On May 10, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) had admitted the airline’s voluntary insolvency resolution petition and appointed Abhilash Lal as the interim resolution professional to manage the carrier.

With a moratorium in force on financial obligations and transfer of assets of Go First in the wake of the insolvency resolution proceedings, the lessors are unable to deregister and take back the aircraft leased to the carrier.

The lessors had earlier told the single judge that denial of deregistration by the DGCA was “illegitimate”.

The lessors who have approached the high court are: Accipiter Investments Aircraft 2 Limited, EOS Aviation 12 (Ireland) Limited, Pembroke Aircraft Leasing 11 Limited, SMBC Aviation Capital Limited, SFV Aircraft Holdings IRE 9 DAC Ltd, ACG Aircraft Leasing Ireland Ltd and DAE SY 22 13 Ireland Designated Activity Company.

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