Virgin Blue hits back at ALAEA after wheel issue

written by australianaviation.com.au | October 20, 2009

90512_1207280585Virgin Blue has hit back at claims by the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) that the airline is being lax with its maintenance practices following an incident on a Boeing 737-800 which was taxiing at Melbourne Airport on October 20.

According to newspaper reports, ALAEA federal secretary Steve Purvinas claimed that one of the wheels on a 737-800s disintegrated upon landing at Melbourne. Purvinas also said that the airline was cutting back on its maintenance programs. “When the wheels are regularly falling off your aircraft, the last thing you want to do is program less maintenance,” Purvinas told The Age.

Virgin Blue hit back at Purvinas’s claim about the nosewheel, saying that the pilot landed safely, and while taxiing the aircraft the pilot noted extra drag, which was presumed to be a brake related issue. On inspection, it was found that a component within the wheel hub had failed. “The safety of crew and guests onboard was never in question,” said the airline’s manager of aircraft airworthiness and maintenance control Darren Dunbier in a statement. “This aircraft including aircraft landing gear are expertly designed with many back-up safety features including the ability to land safely if any wheel is rendered unserviceable which was the case this morning.”

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ALAEA image of the damaged wheel.
ALAEA images of the damaged wheel.

Dunbier also clarified changes that the airline is making to its maintenance programs. “To be very clear and at our own initiative, we are making a CASA-approved change to our aircraft line check procedures which will deliver more frequent maintenance inspections of aircraft across our fleet,” he said.

“Mr Purvinas should be well aware that Virgin Blue is increasing our maintenance schedule to a level which exceeds the manufacturer’s recommendations as well as meeting and in many cases exceeding all regulatory requirements and therefore we find his statements bewildering and misleading.”

Virgin Blue said in the statement “it is seeking legal advice regarding the seriously inaccurate statements” made by Purvinas.

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