Business News of 2014-08-12

Starbow's flight hiccup and matters arising

Starbow’s flight S9100, which took off from the Kotoka International Airport (KIA),in Accra, for Kumasi at 9:00am local time last Saturday, August 9, was forced to return to base due to a malfunction in one of the four engines on the BAe 146 aircraft in mid-air.
The incident is said to have occurred during the initial climb-out to about 3,000 feet, raising questions about what really might have gone wrong and the safety measures in place.
Eric Antwi, Chief Executive Officer of the airline, in an interview with the B&FT, said: “We took off on Saturday for Kumasi. During the flight, they had some technical problems with one of the engines; so as procedure demands, they looked at the parameters and had to shut it down. Then they came all the way back to KIA. The aircraft has got four engines, so to lose one engine is not an emergency situation; it’s a normal situation.
“The captain told the passengers that he was experiencing some technical problems and was coming back to Accra. He came all the way, did the normal landing, taxied and brought them down.”
He added: “Admittedly, there was no prior communication with the passengers as to the arrangement of an alternative flight for them to fly to Kumasi. Starbow’s ground staff had arranged for the next flight for them. So the passengers got to the arrival hall, were taken to the departure lounge, arrangement was made and a new flight took off at about 11:30am for Kumasi. There was no point that any passenger’s life was endangered.”
The aircraft and its capabilities
The four-engine aircraft’s configuration includes greater redundancy and superior takeoff performance from short runways, as well as in hot and high conditions. This explains why the airline is able to fly to airstrips with relatively short runways like Sunyani and Takoradi.
As at January 2014, a total of 86 BAE 146 aircraft –all types – were in service worldwide, including the ones operated by Starbow in Ghana. B&FT investigations revealed that the engine that malfunctioned had about 3,000 cycles left on it. This is an indication of the number of times the engine could be used before it’s replaced.
The cost of replacing one of the engines is estimated at some US$400,000.
“With these jet engines, the slightest problem could cause some particles to come from the engine. This doesn’t mean the engine was on fire. The engine was never on fire. If it was on fire, it would have been indicated in the cockpit. It would show all the lights and everything in it, and they would have had to carry out the fire extinguishing because every engine has got a fire extinguisher around it and that is what is used to fight any fire in the engine. All these were never done. It was just a cool engine that they just shut down, and landed safely. An engine malfunction happens in the core of the engine, so until the experts open it up we won’t know the cause,”Mr.Antwi said.
“It was a technical malfunction. We regularly service our aircrafts. The aircraft in question went for servicing and came back in July,” he stressed.
He added that “Starbow would like to take this opportunity to apologise to all our affected passengers on board and assure the general public and our cherished passengers that as a company we will continue to strive for the highest compliance with strict airline security and safety measures at all times.”
The airline has officially furnished the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority with details about what happened and is assisting officials in investigations.
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