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Airlink jetstream fleet grounded

Airlink's 14 jetstream aircraft have been grounded. Late in the evening of the 23rd December 2009, the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) decided that Airlink's jetstream fleet would be grounded from midnight on the 23rd December. The jetstreams would stay grounded until the CAA issues them with new airworthiness certificates.

Airlink's remaining fleet may still fly

The jetstream aircraft make up more than half of Airlink's fleet. Airlink's remaining fleet - Embraer 135 and BAE 146 aircraft (a total of 9 planes) -- may still operate.

Passenger helpline

Passengers should call Airlink's reservations helpline on 011 451 73 50.

Airlink statement

 "Yesterday evening, after consulting with the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), we decided to immediately ground our entire Jetstream 41 fleet of turbo-prop aircraft. While our crews are trained to deal with engine failures on take-off, we share the SACAA's view that in light of two such failures in several weeks, that this represents as an unnecessary and unacceptable risk", Airlink said in a statement issued by Rodger Foster, its CEO and Managing Director.

"Airlink regrets to announce some changes to its normal flight schedule and apologises to its customers for the inconvenience this may cause over the next few days - coming especially as it does on Christmas Eve. 

The safety of our passengers, crew and equipment is our top priority. Yesterday evening, after consulting with the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), we decided to immediately ground our entire Jetstream 41 fleet of turbo-prop aircraft. As a result, we have had to reschedule some flights using our other aircraft and additional aircraft that we have hired in. 

All of this morning’s services from Cape Town and Johannesburg departed on time. We have made arrangements to ensure that all of our passengers are accommodated and none are left stranded. 

Passengers should call our reservations helpline on 011 451 73 50, which will be active from 07.00 Thursday to verify their flight details. 

The decision to ground the Jetstream 41 fleet follows the failure of an engine turbine seal plate component which resulted in an aborted take-off incident involving one of our aircraft at Nelspruit yesterday (Wednesday). The failure is similar to that identified by the SA Civil Aviation Authority as a contributing cause in the 24 September Durban accident involving another of our Jetstream 41 aircraft. 

While our crews are trained to deal with engine failures on take-off, we share the SA CAA’s view that in light of two such failures in several weeks, that this represents as an unnecessary and unacceptable risk. 

The grounding applies specifically to the J41 aircraft. It does not apply to Airlink’s other – and larger - aircraft, which are safe and operating normally. 

This maintenance of the engine component is beyond Airlink's control as the selection, installation and maintenance of the turbine seal plate is done by the engine manufacturer, Honeywell, during engine assembly. 

The Jetstream 41s will remain grounded until Honeywell and the aircraft manufacturer, BAE Systems, have identified and implemented a remedy. 

Thank you for your patience, understanding and support. 

Issued by Rodger Foster
CEO and Managing Director
Airlink"

Incidents leading up to grounding

Following a crash at Merebank, a runway excursion incident at Port Elizabeth and an accident at George; the final straw that broke the camel's back was when smoke emerged from one of the engines of an Airlink Jetstream 41 which was set to take off from Nelspruit on the morning of the 23rd December. "As a result of this second incident, which is similar in nature to the one that occurred in Durban in September 2009, resulting in one fatality, the CAA resolved that the safety and airworthiness of the SA Airlink Jetstream aircraft fleet could no longer be guaranteed," the Civil Aviation Authority said.

rescue workers at the downed Airlink flight 8911

Another festive season grounding

This is not the first time that South Africa's Civil Aviation Authority have grounded planes in the festive season. On the 29th November 2007 they grounded Nationwide Airlines, which led to chaos for those who had booked flights with the airline, and the ultimate liquidation of Nationwide.

Resources

23 Dec 2009

Overview of incidents involving SA Airlink operations.

22 Dec 2009

SACAA statement on SA Airlink.

SA Airlink crash humour


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