Another Nationwide flight turns back after ‘ground handling’ error in London

2008-01-21 00:00

A Nationwide Airline flight from Gatwick in London had to turn back 40 minutes after take-off last week after a technical failure.

The incident comes only weeks after the airline’s entire fleet was grounded when it failed to comply with inspection and maintenance criteria. The airline was later allowed to restart flights, after inspections by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). However, not all its planes are back in the skies.

A Pietermaritzburg resident, Margaret Smith, was aboard the flight from London on Thursday and she told The Witness that the problem was with the plane’s nose.

"They said there was damage to the nose. We had to turn back and I missed my connecting flight in Johannesburg," she said.

On November 7, a Nationwide Boeing aircraft lost an engine during take off at the Cape Town International Airport.

The CAA suspended the airworthiness certificates of 16 aircraft from the Nationwide fleet. The suspension was lifted on December 7 following thorough inspection of the Nationwide fleet.

Last week, another Nationwide aircraft was forced to turn back to Zambia a few minutes into a flight due to a mechanical fault. Hydraulic fluid had been leaking from a faulty pipe, causing a five-hour flight delay.

CAA spokeswoman Phindiwe Gwebu said they inspected six aircraft of the Nationwide fleet in December and allowed them to fly again.

This month, two of the remaining 11 planes were also cleared to fly.

"Today only nine of the 17 aircraft that were grounded are flying. Regarding the remaining aircraft, Nationwide is still in the process of preparing the aircraft for CAA inspection," said Gwebu.

She said that the current reported defects and incidents from Nationwide aircraft are within acceptable limits and they are supported by documents such as the Minimum Equipment List, which allows certain components to be inoperative for a certain duration.

"The aircraft systems are designed in a redundant system, which allows normal operation of a system even if one system fails. This kind of defect does not require any action from SACAA," said Gwebu.

Nationwide CEO Vernon Bricknell said Thursday’s incident was caused by their outsourced ground handling company in London.

"The company had removed the nose-gear lock pin after they had completed the push-back of the aircraft just prior to departure. As a result, the aircraft had to return and have the pin removed. This was a ground handling error and unrelated to any maintenance procedures," he said.

thabi@witness.co.za

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