Airlines warn of safety as planes return from pandemic storage – travel

Regulators, insurers and experts warn airlines to be extra careful when reactivating aircraft left in extended storage during the Covid-19 pandemic, citing potential pilot rust, maintenance errors and even insect nests blocking key sensors.

The unprecedented number of aircraft blocked by coronavirus blockage has blocked air travel – reaching two-thirds of the global fleet at one time – creating an increase in reported problems as airlines return them to service.

The number of “unstabilized” or poorly handled approaches has risen sharply this year, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Such misfortunes can lead to heavy landings, runways or even accidents.

Concerned about IATA data, insurers are asking airlines about whether they are doing additional pilot training to focus on landings, Gary Moran, Asia’s chief of aviation, told insurance broker Aon PLC.

“They want to know about the circumstances of the training,” he said.

Approaches and landings impose significant requirements on the crew for which regular training and experience are considered vital.

According to the aircraft manufacturer Airbus SE, the highest category of fatal accidents can be tracked as close to an airport as possible, while the highest number of non-fatal accidents occur during landing.

In May, a Pakistan International Airlines plane crashed after an unstable approach, killing 97 people, while 18 died in an Air India Express crash landing in August, also after an unstable approach.

Insects in tubes

Training is not the only concern.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has reported an “alarming trend” in the number of reports for reading air speed and reliable altitude during the first flight after an aircraft has left storage.

In some cases, takeoffs had to be abandoned or the aircraft had to return to base.

In most cases, the problem was traced back to undetected insect nests inside the aircraft’s pitot tubes, pressure-sensitive sensors that supply key data to an airplane computer.

In June, a Wizz Air Holdings PLC stopped taking off after the captain found that the air speed was zero.

Examination of the plane found insect larvae in one of the pitot tubes, the aircraft being parked 12 weeks before the flight, the British air accident investigation branch said last month. There were no passengers on board.

Insects blocking a pitot tube contributed to the 1996 crash of a Birgenair plane in the Dominican Republic, which killed all 189 people on board.

Kate Seaton, a Singapore-based aerospace partner at law firm HFW, said flight crews need to be aware of potential defects that may not have been properly identified as the aircraft return to service after a launch. unprecedented land.

“We are in new territory – the industry needs to take action to mitigate the risks, but it needs to be prepared for the unexpected,” she said.

Honest evaluation

EASA said last month that problems found after extended parking include stopping the engine in flight due to technical problems, contamination of the fuel system, reduced parking brake pressure and loss of emergency battery charging.

“We have people returning to work who are quite rusty, which is an important issue,” said insurer Aon’s Moran.

Airlines have developed training programs for returning pilots, from theoretical refreshments to several simulator sessions and supervised in-flight checks, depending on the length of absence.

The Australian Aviation Regulatory Authority said on November 30 that its inspectors will strengthen the oversight of Covid-19 risks involving re-entry into service, pilot training and safety risk management for the remainder of the year until June 30, 2021.

Pilots must also make an honest assessment of their skills and confidence when returning to work, said the representative of the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations, Peter Meiresonne, at an industry webinar in October. They may need to turn down offers such as shorter landing approaches from air traffic control if they don’t feel ready, he said.

Maybe now is the right time to say, “We’re not capable today,” or “Give us a six- or 10-mile line, rather than a four-mile line,” which you might accept when you’re more skilled. and (flight experience is) more recent, ”he said.

(This story was published from an agency stream with no text changes.)

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