View Full Version : Mechanic warned Air Transat that the 330 was not ready to fly

3rd Sep 2001, 21:30
Mechanic warned Air Transat over jet

From Monday's Globe and Mail

A senior airline mechanic told his boss an Air Transat plane was not ready to fly just days before it lost power over the Atlantic, forcing a dramatic emergency landing on an island airstrip, a union official says.

The mechanic was so worried about the plane that he tape-recorded a telephone conversation with his non-union supervisor, who overruled his advice to leave the Airbus A330-200 on the ground after an engine replacement in which not all work recommended by the manufacturer was completed, the official said.

"He didn't want to release the plane," said Jean Jallet, president of Lodge 1751 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents mechanics at Transat's Mirabel hangar north of Montreal.

Five days later, after several uneventful round trips, the plane's engines died en route from Toronto to Lisbon after losing fuel. Its pilot was forced to make a dangerous no-power landing on an island runway to save the lives of the 304 people on board.

Air Transat spokeswoman Seychelle Harding said she couldn't comment on the union's allegations, but she said the mechanic's supervisor was suspended with pay last week.

"Whether something went wrong or not, he was in charge of the engine change," Ms. Harding said. "It's standard procedure to suspend him."

Neither the airline nor the union would release the names of the mechanic or his superior.

The cause of the near-disaster is under investigation. The Globe and Mail quoted sources last week as saying improper installation caused a fuel line to chafe against other pipes, resulting in a leak that eventually starved the engines of fuel.

The engines' manufacturer, Rolls-Royce, also issued a statement last week saying the fuel leak appears to be the result of Air Transat following only part of a service bulletin issued earlier.

Mr. Jallet said the certified aircraft technician and his team of between six and eight mechanics tried to follow that bulletin, which called for replacement of the engine's fuel line and a nearby hydraulic pipe. But the hydraulic line couldn't be corrected because certain parts weren't stocked at the maintenance facility north of Montreal.

"That's why you'd get what what we call fretting, or chafing of the lines," Mr. Jallet said. "The mechanic was well aware that the service bulletin was half-done. I don't know why they didn't have all the parts."

Mr. Jallet said an Air Transat supervisor disregarded the mechanic's concern and signed off on the plane's release into regular service.

"My guy [the mechanic] did the right thing," Mr. Jallet said. "When they tell you something you don't agree with, you have to call them back and get it on tape. That way you're covered."

The union has offered lawyers to the mechanic to help him through the investigation, Mr. Jallet said. He would not reveal the tape's exact contents.

Mr. Jallet also said management officials overrule unionized mechanics far too frequently at small airlines such as Air Transat.

"In these smaller outfits, you get more pressure to release the aircraft," Mr. Jallet said. "You wouldn't have that at Air Canada."

Another union official said staff at smaller carriers can feel pushed to avoid delaying planes over safety concerns.

"Probably there is more pressure because they have to meet a schedule," said Jack Quinn, chief steward of IAMAW Lodge 764 in Richmond, B.C. "It's not like Air Canada where you just bring another aircraft in. It's very competitive, of course. For somebody like Air Transat, if that aircraft doesn't fly you're looking at a whole flight being lost and people being put up in hotels and such. I don't think they have as many backups."

Mr. Quinn, who started as a mechanic for the former Canadian Pacific Airlines in 1977, represents West Coast mechanics of the former Canadian Airlines, now part of Air Canada. He has no direct knowledge of Air Transat, but said it's not a good sign if mechanics have started taping their conversations with management.

"That's a new one on me," he said. "If you got to the point where you were having to record things, then you would be a bit concerned, wouldn't you? It would tell me that it wasn't the first time. I think you'd be covering your butt."

Mr. Jallet said the mechanics union was merely doing what is necessary to keep front-line workers from taking the fall for the airline's problems. "It's easy to blame the lower guy on the totem pole."

The airline has said it replaced the engine because tiny metal filings had been detected in the motor's oil. While any fuel leak is serious, this one affected only the right-wing fuel tanks. Investigators are trying to determine whether the pilots pumped fuel from the undamaged left-wing tanks to the leaking right engine, causing both engines to quit.

Although the Portuguese-led investigation isn't complete, Transport Canada has ordered Air Transat pilots to take remedial training in fuel management and emergency procedures for long flights over water. The regulator also directed the Montreal-based airline to overhaul its maintenance procedures.

The pilots' first remedial sessions on fuel management will begin Tuesday.

Whatever the cause of the near disaster, pilots around the world marvelled at the skill of Captain Robert Piché in handling the plane after the second of its two engines went silent at 34,500 feet, 137 kilometres from the nearest airstrip. Without power, a pilot has just one chance to land. Eight of the plane's 10 tires blew under extreme emergency braking, without reverse engine thrust, but everyone aboard survived.

Air Transat issued a news release on the weekend detailing arrangement made for passengers. Their airfare was refunded and they will get "complimentary upgrades wherever possible" on the return trip, the airline said.

4th Sep 2001, 00:05
When are we going to learn, perhaps more accurately, when is the traveling public going to learn, that there are no free rides when flying in airplanes.

To do the job safely and correctly, requires a expensive infrastructure, and that infrastructure costs big bucks to maintain. There is no cheap way to operate an airline safely.

How much is your life worth?

Max Angle
4th Sep 2001, 01:37
Whilst we don't know if this is all totally kosher it does have a nasty and all to familiar ring to it.

As the old saying goes, "if you think safety is expensive, try having an accident". It is only the skill of the "systems monitors" and the fact that a runway was nearby that prevented a real nasty. Hope when the dust settles that if there are any lessons to be learnt that they are learnt well.

4th Sep 2001, 05:04
Air Transat, union dispute report of call from mechanic concerned about plane
Updated: Mon, Sep 03 7:35 PM EDT

Air Transat disputed that a mechanic told his boss that a plane, shown, forced to make an emergency landing on an island airstrip, was not ready to fly. (AP/Humberta Augusto) (CP)

MONTREAL (CP) - Both Air Transat and the union representing its mechanics said Monday they know nothing about efforts by a senior airline mechanic to alert his boss that a plane which lost power over the Atlantic was not ready to fly.
A report published in the Globe and Mail on Monday quoted a union official saying the mechanic was so worried about the plane that he tape-recorded a phone conservation with his non-union supervisor.

But the boss overruled his advice to leave the Airbus A330-200 on the ground after an engine replacement days before the incident late last month, said Jean Jallet, president of Lodge 1751 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The plane, en route to Lisbon from Toronto, was forced to make an emergency landing on an island airstrip.

A news release issued by the airline Monday said company officials looked into the story and contacted the appropriate unions.

"No conversation, recorded or not, to the effect that the plane in question should not have been in service, can be traced," the statement said.

A few hours later, the union issued a similar statement.

"Certain recent statements by union representative Jallet . . . were inaccurate," Robert Guay, the union's Quebec co-ordinator, said in a release.

"The usual procedures were followed by Air Transat mechanics.

"Even if telephone conversations can sometimes be recorded, we don't know of the existence of any conversation, recorded or not, during which a supervisor was warned by one of our members about a problem with the plane."

Guay spoke harshly about the statement from union colleague Jallet, saying "we deplore such speculation by ill-informed union members."

In an interview, Guay suggested it was likely a lack of experience with such incidents which prompted Jallet's comments.

"A person who does this kind of thing can put an airline in peril before we have proof that it's the truth," said Guay.

Air Transat spokesman Michel Lemay said the allegations in the article suggest the airline did not put safety first.

"There's a story today to the effect that the company management was advised there was a problem with the plane and let it go anyway," Lemay told reporters outside the company's office at Mirabel Airport.

"We've verified today that that's completely false."

The airline reiterated its assertion that all its planes are held to high safety and maintenance standards.

"We don't make any compromises on these questions, which explains the extreme importance we place on ensuring that this investigation be completed under the best possible conditions," president Denis Jacob said in the release.

But Jallet told the Globe that not all work recommended by the manufacturer was completed during the engine replacement.

"He (the unidentified mechanic) didn't want to release the plane," said Jallet, who represents mechanics at Transat's Mirabel hangar north of Montreal.

Five days later, after several uneventful round trips, the plane's engines after losing fuel. Its pilot was forced to make an powerless emergency landing on an island runway to save the lives of the 304 people aboard.

Air Transat said the mechanic's supervisor was "relieved of his duties with pay" last week, but said the action was simply standard procedure during such investigations and not a disciplinary suspension.

Neither the airline nor the union would release the names of the mechanic or his superior, the Globe reported.

The cause of the nearly disastrous landing is still under investigation and Jacob was critical of various media reports about possible causes.

"Air Transat deplores the speculation and indeed these hasty conclusions made by third parties who don't possess all the facts," said Jacob.

"Certain details, often incorrect - culminating in those (reported) today - could turn out to have only a minor role, or perhaps no role, in the cause of the incident."

Meanwhile, the union has offered lawyers to the mechanic to help him through the investigation, Jallet said.

"(The mechanic) did the right thing," Jallet said. "When they tell you something you don't agree with, you have to call them back and get it on tape. That way you're covered."

However, Jallet would not reveal the exact contents of the taped conversation between the mechanic and his supervisor.

Meanwhile, Lemay said some of the passengers aboard the troubled flight have returned to Toronto, with others expected in the coming days.

The plane remains in the Azores, but is no longer needed by investigators at the scene.

Lemay said it will be repaired and likely sent to Airbus for further study.

5th Sep 2001, 22:40
I seem to recall this is not the first Canadian commercial flight running out of fuel inflight- coincidence?

Dropp the Pilot
5th Sep 2001, 23:58

6th Sep 2001, 00:06
Or the first British one. Coincidence?

6th Sep 2001, 00:10
this what happens when an airline is only thinking about money (Profits). :(

Terrain Terrain
Pull Up Pull Up

6th Sep 2001, 03:29
Air Transat admits engine improperly installed




• Web Sites: Air Transat

Related Stories
• Transat executive confirms warning from mechanic
• Transat union fears discipline for talking
• Mechanic warned Transat over jet

Canadian Press with Globe and Mail Update

Montreal — Air Transat acknowledged Wednesday that an engine on the jet that ran out of fuel off Portugal was improperly installed.

The announcement follows a Globe and Mail report Wednesday that a senior Air Transat maintenance supervisor told concerned mechanics to proceed with an engine swap on one of the airline's Airbus A330s, despite missing parts, a senior company executive confirmed.

The executive, in an interview arranged on condition that he not be identified, confirmed that the team's lead mechanic initially told his supervisor that he couldn't finish installing the engine because parts were missing.

However, that doesn't necessarily explain why the Airbus A330 ran out of fuel and had to make an emergency landing on Aug. 24, said airline spokeswoman Seychelle Harding.

Air Transat replaced one of the A330's two engines at its Montreal maintenance centre five days before the aircraft carrying 304 people to Lisbon from Toronto ran out of fuel and glided safely to an island airstrip.

Ms. Harding said the engine delivered by manufacturer Rolls Royce was missing a hydraulic pump. Mechanics decided to install a pump from another engine model even though Rolls Royce had recommended against it, but hadn't issued a mandatory warning not to mix engine parts.

Since the incident, Rolls Royce has issued a bulletin saying such a pump must not be installed in that type of engine, Ms. Harding said.

Ms. Harding said there is still no proof the installation caused chafing of engine parts that led to enormous loss of fuel over the Atlantic.

In Ottawa, Peter Coyles, a Transport Canada spokesman, said, "We are aware of the reports of the admissions by the company today. We are following up on this very serious matter."

He said Transport Minister David Collenette will make a statement Thursday "regarding further action."

• Web Sites: Air Transat

Related Stories

Lurk R
6th Sep 2001, 05:16
Zebedee - the other Canadian incident (Gimli Glider) occured primarily because the incorrect density factor factor was used (imperial instead of metric) and only half the required fuel was loaded. This incident seems to have been shown as an engineering fault with the engine change. Making a correlation is perhaps drawing rather a long bow...

6th Sep 2001, 07:52
:) Lurk R, I'm Canadian and I thought Zebadee's comment about Canadians and dead stick widebodies was funny. Maybe it's our national skill.

I know of three incidents where widebodies have become gliders:

* the BA 747 that lost one to an oil problem and then the remaining three to volcanic ash (engines were subsequently restarted, so not a deadstick landing)
* the Gimli Glider
* the Air Transat incident under discussion

Does anyone know of another?

6th Sep 2001, 08:39
Good work by the pilots, IMHO. :)

6th Sep 2001, 09:26
was there not a 737 and a DC-9 that ran out of engines in the Carribean area some years ago?

6th Sep 2001, 10:02
The TACA 737 (http://www.ntsb.gov/NTSB/brief.asp?ev_id=20001213X25693&key=1) made a successful off-airport deadstick landing.
A Southern (http://aviation-safety.net/database/1977/770404-1.htm) DC-9 also managed to alight on a road but then sadly collided with ground structures.
An ALM DC-9 (http://airsafe.com/journal/issue6.htm#alm) ran out of fuel and ditched in the Caribbean.

6th Sep 2001, 10:16
Air Transat now concedes a non-standard hydraulic pump was installed when the Trent was swapped 5 days before the incident. They still deny the taped phone call business and say R-R 'allowed' but 'did not recommend' such an installation - fudging or what ?

Anyway, seems R-R has now issued new advisory categorically prohibiting it.

6th Sep 2001, 13:48
There was also a UPS 727 that stopped blowing hot gas out that back a while ago. if I remember it was a stormy night over Chicago.

[ 06 September 2001: Message edited by: Iain ]

6th Sep 2001, 14:56
And the Eastern L-1011 that lost all 3 over the Carribean due to a lack of "O" rings on the oil filters. They managed to get one restarted and barely made it back to Mia.

6th Sep 2001, 18:32
September 6, 2001

Transat blames engine maker
No comment: Rolls-Royce: Replacement motor missing crucial part, airline says

Graeme Hamilton
National Post

Paul Chiasson, The Canadian Press

Captain Robert Piché, right, co-pilot Dirk DeJager and flight director Melani Tesic at recent news conference.

MONTREAL - Air Transat yesterday tried to shift blame for a near-disastrous fuel leak to the manufacturer of the jet's engines, Rolls-Royce.

Michel Lemay, a spokesman for the charter airline, acknowledged that Air Transat's maintenance crew made mistakes during an engine change on an Airbus A330 five days before the plane lost all power midway across the Atlantic.

But Mr. Lemay said the replacement engine supplied by Rolls-Royce was missing a crucial part, the hydraulic pump, and did not meet the manufacturer's own safety guidelines.

''We took delivery of a Rolls-Royce engine to make that change in mid-August,'' he said. ''The engine was supplied by Rolls-Royce, and their own engine had not been updated according to the [service bulletin.]''

Last week, Rolls-Royce and Airbus provided the first indication that faulty maintenance work by Air Transat had caused a fuel leak on Flight 236 from Toronto to Lisbon.

In urgent notices to airlines flying A330s, the two companies said a fuel pipe feeding the Air Transat jet's right engine cracked after rubbing against a hydraulic pipe. They said Air Transat had failed to fully apply a March, 1999, service bulletin from Rolls-Royce modifying the two pipes to ensure adequate clearance between them.

The rapid fuel leak and subsequent loss of power created a terrifying scene on board Flight 236 as 306 passengers and crew prepared for a ditching at sea until, at the last minute, the pilot managed to land safely on the Azores Islands.

Mr. Lemay said Air Transat mechanics installed the proper hydraulic pump but used a hydraulic line that pre-dated the service bulletin. He said they were confident there was adequate clearance between the fuel and hydraulic lines.

The airline took the unusual step yesterday of admitting its mistake before the investigation into the incident is complete because it had to defend ''its integrity as a company,'' Mr. Lemay said. It wanted to rebut a newspaper report that the mechanic who did the work warned his superiors the jet was unsafe.

''When the aircraft was signed off from the hangar, everyone was comfortable with that,'' Mr. Lemay said. ''The engine change had been done, and no so-called warning to anyone was ever traced.''

The airline now admits that the hydraulic pump was improperly installed. ''Mistakes happen,'' Mr. Lemay said.

But he noted that the 1999 bulletin from Rolls-Royce was only a recommendation, not mandatory. He said it was only made mandatory last week following the near-crash of Flight 236.

Mr. Lemay also said investigators have not determined that the maintenance foul-up caused the fuel leak. Air Transat is not even acknowledging that its mechanics failed to leave enough space between the two pipes.

The maintenance supervisor who approved the work has been placed on paid leave. The jet flew 67 hours following the engine change before the emergency.

Leslie Wilder, a spokeswoman for Rolls-Royce, said the company will make no comment until the investigation, led by Portuguese authorities, is complete. A Transport Canada spokesman said late yesterday that in light of Air Transat's admission, David Collenette, the Minister of Transport, will be making a statement today regarding further action against the airline.

The government has already told Air Transat to give its pilots refresher courses on safety issues and beef up its maintenance program.


(Each link opens a new window)

Air Transat
Read the news releases on Flight TS 236 here.


Other Stories by this Writer

6th Sep 2001, 19:18
Didn't a certain Cpt Nigel make an unscheduled landing in Manchester some years ago? Seem to recall he had more fuel in his cigarette lighter than he did in his Concorde. ;)

6th Sep 2001, 19:25
That's not entirely true, but I'm sure others will correct you on the facts.

6th Sep 2001, 20:02
According to Ananova:

Airline fined after transatlantic glide

The Canadian airline whose Airbus lost power while on a transatlantic flight and had to glide to an emergency landing on the Azores islands has been fined £120,000.

The Air Transat Airbus 330, with more than 304 people on board, glided for almost 20 minutes, descending more than 30,000 feet.

It then made an emergency landing and eleven people were injured.

Canadian Transport Minister David Collenette said Air Transat was fined for improper maintenance on the jet, which had an engine replaced five days before the problem on the Toronto-Lisbon flight.

Specifically, the airline put the plane back into service without following required procedures, Collenette said.

Air Transat said the replacement engine installed on the plane was missing the hydraulic pump, and mechanics used one from a different model.

Story filed: 16:55 Thursday 6th September 2001