Heard this yesterday on CBC Radio, and the story is apparently legitimate.
"Smoking may be banned on airplanes, but a missing ashtray grounded a Jazz Air flight for nine hours last week. The Feb. 23 flight from Fredericton to Toronto was postponed after the crew noticed during pre-flight checks that the receptacle in the wall outside the lavatory door was missing."
This very example was cited to us at a Transport Canada session on developing Minimum Equipment Lists (MEL), last week. It is a very basic example of how a lack of forethought on the part of the manufacturer or modifier, during MEL development, can result in a grounding for no good reason.
It had the group of delegates present mentally going back over designs we've approved in the past, realizing that if our non required modifications quit, even though they are non required, the plane is grounded, unless we get MEL allieviation.
It appears the Canadians' diligence in obeying rules is borderline idiocy. Nothing new; just sample airport security at YYC for example; or ATC at YVR sending squadrons of light aircraft off whilst keeping heavies sitting and burning big fuel at the hold; or being refused to allow your burger to be cooked pink anywhere; etc, etc.
Not the only stupid rule-bound country, granted. The UK is up there too. But the Canadians take the cake. Silly country.
It may not be an entire country who is silly, when a pilot chooses to apply the MEL as it was written and approved. Extend that pilot the benefit of the doubt, maybe there was a TC inspector present, who knows?
Downloading required actions, resulting from an improperly conceived MEL, to the pilot, just before the flight, is not reasonable, and does not make the pilot (or a country) responsible for the resulting problem.
And, it might be an FAA approved MEL, rather than Canadian, I don't know the aircraft type.
There is also that pesky airworthiness directive from 1974 that requires the lavatory ashtray as well...
(c) Except as provided by paragraph (d) of this AD: Within 180 days after August 6, 1974, or before the accumulation of any time in service on a new production aircraft, whichever occurs later, except that new production aircraft may be flown in accordance with sections 21.197 and 21.199 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (14 CFR 21.197 and 21.199) to a base where compliance may be accomplished, install a self-contained, removable ashtray on or near the entry side of each lavatory door. One ashtray may serve more than one lavatory door if the ashtray can be seen readily from the cabin side of each lavatory door served.
(d) The airplane may be operated for a period of 10 days with a lavatory door ashtray missing, provided that no more than one such ashtray is missing. For airplanes on which only one lavatory door ashtray is installed, the airplane may be operated for a period of 3 days if the lavatory door ashtray is missing.
NOTE 2: This AD permits a lavatory door ashtray to be missing, although the FAA-approved Master Minimum Equipment List (MMEL) may not allow such provision. In any case, the provisions of this AD prevail.
PilotDAR; at my airline, we can request an Engineer to sign a document called a "Production Permit" to allow us to defer a defect that is not covered under the MEL. As long as it doesn't contravene the MEL.
Yes. I've flown AI many times. I experienced one of the worst landings ever in 747 at Bombay (as it was called then). The thing actually bounced. However, I remember coming into Heathrow in an AI 747 and it was absolutely the best landing I've ever experienced in a large aircraft - a real greaser.