Page last updated at 15:02 GMT, Monday, 4 August 2008 16:02 UK

Airline fined over faulty plane

Flyglobespan aircraft
The fault had been picked up on an earlier flight

Budget airline FlyGlobeSpan, which flew a faulty jet 3,000 miles from Liverpool to New York after it had been struck by lightning, has been fined 5,000.

Despite knowing two engine pressure ratio indicators (EPRs) were out of action, Globespan Airways Ltd allowed the Boeing 757 to take off last June.

The crew found the failure on an earlier flight, but the plane was cleared to fly later the same day.

The company admitted two summonses under the Air Navigation Order 2005.

It admitted flying the plane without a valid certificate of air worthiness or a valid operator's certificate and was fined at London's Southwark Crown Court.

The Edinburgh-based airline Globespan Airways Ltd, which trades as FlyGlobeSpan, had breached Civil Aviation regulations by declaring the aircraft "serviceable" to fly later that day on a flight returning to the United States via Knock in Ireland.

I am told and I am satisfied that [the incident] did not in any way endanger the public
Recorder James Curtis QC

The prosecution was brought by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Passing sentence, Recorder James Curtis QC said the EPRs allowed a pilot to monitor the thrust of each engine.

Although not "core" instrumentation - such data could be gleaned by using another type of gauge - it nevertheless provided an "extra layer of information" for the pilot.

He said: "I am told and I am satisfied that the failure of the EPRs on this flight did not render the aircraft unsafe and did not in any way endanger the public who were flying on that aircraft.

"In the event... that flight continued for some hours perfectly safely from JFK to Liverpool without any incident or difficulty.

"It rather placed extra burdens and pressures on the pilot and co-pilot to calculate manually the performance of the engines."

That meant "they were stretched more than ideally than they could have been in flying the plane safely, and fly safely they did".

Liverpool Airport
The plane took off from Liverpool Airport

The recorder said a "proper and in-depth" investigation was carried out after landing by the airline's contract engineers, Storm Aviation.

They could neither identify the cause of the failure nor correct it.

He said the responsible officer inspected the plane but "optimistically interpreted" the requirements needed to allow the plane to fly.

The recorder continued: "That was clearly a wrong decision."

The engineer, who in this case was the flight operations director, "reported to the new pilot, who was taking the plane over, that the aircraft complied with the air worthiness certificate and could be accepted for the flight."

The pilot also decided the plane could be flown safely, and the flight took off, breaking the law.

Mistake 'accepted'

Once in New York, the aircraft was again examined and, this time, the problem was rectified.

The recorder said that, since then, the plane had flown thousands of hours and millions of kilometres "perfectly safely and perfectly soundly".

He said he was satisfied that the airline had "shown every sign of unreserved acceptance of its mistake through its employees and to keep its operations beyond reproach."

In addition to a 2,500 fine on each breach, the company was ordered to pay 4,280 prosecution costs.

Speaking outside court, Rick Green, chief executive officer of the airline's parent company, Globespan Group, said: "Clearly, we are pleased with the outcome and empathetic that the judge saw it in the manner that we always believed it to be."

Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa), said: "We believe this is the first time in 10 years that the Civil Aviation Authority has had to bring a case of this kind.

"We share the CAA's view that the charges the airline faced are very serious indeed."

He added: "We hope the airline will listen to what the CAA and the courts have had to say so that the UK's high standards are not blemished again in this way."

Airline guilty of safety breach
02 Jul 08 |  Merseyside
Airline faces safety prosecution
26 May 08 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife
Airline has a licence suspended
18 Oct 07 |  Business

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