CASA has grounded Tiger Airways Australia, saying allowing the airline to continue flying would pose “a serious and imminent risk to air safety”.
The grounding, the first time the aviation safety regulator has grounded a major airline, was issued late on Friday evening and took effect from Saturday morning, grounding the airline’s 10 strong Airbus A320 fleet, and stranding thousands of passengers during the school holiday period.
CASA issued a ‘show cause’ notice to Tiger in March, requiring the airline to address a number of safety concerns to avoid being grounded. Following Tiger’s response to the show cause notice, CASA placed a number of conditions on Tiger’s AOC which, according to CASA, “required actions to improve the proficiency of Tiger Airways Australia’s pilots, improvements to pilot training and checking processes, changes to fatigue management, improvements to maintenance control and ongoing airworthiness systems and ensuring appropriately qualified people fill management and operational positions.”
However, says CASA, “Since Tiger Airways Australia was served the show cause notice there have been further events raising concerns about the airline’s ability to continue to conduct operations safely.
“In the circumstances, CASA no longer has confidence in the ability of Tiger Airways Australia to satisfactorily address the safety issues that have been identified.”
The grounding period is for an initial five working days, during which time CASA must apply to the Federal Court to have the grounding extended.
“If the Federal Court supports CASA’s application the court can continue the suspension for a period of time which will allow CASA to finalise investigations into the safety matters,” says CASA.
In response, Tiger said it “continues to cooperate fully with the industry regulator”, and that “safety underpins our operations at all times.”
Said Tiger Airways in a statement, “The airline is currently working with the safety regulator to achieve a satisfactory outcome to its investigation at the earliest opportunity, as was achieved with the recent show cause notice. Tiger Airways has fully complied with the conditions required by CASA as a result of this process.”
CASA issued the grounding notice after learning of a second incident where a Tiger A320 breached the minimum lowest safe altitude, this time an approach to Avalon Airport on Thursday night.
”It’s not so much the mistakes in themselves, the individual mistakes of the pilots, it’s the pattern you’re seeing of safety issues arising over and over again within the airline,” CASA spokesman Peter Gibson told Fairfax Media.
The grounding does not affect Tiger Airways’ services to and from Singapore, which are operated by Tiger’s Singapore parent operation.