By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
BAHAMASAIR Chairman Tommy Turnquest yesterday expressed full confidence in the airline’s safety and maintenance programme as he moved to temper concerns over the Boeing 737s in its fleet following the recent Southwestern Airlines engine explosion and emergency landing.
The twin-engine of SA’s Boeing 737 bound from New York to Dallas exploded on April 17, igniting speculation of whether its fan blade failure signalled a deeper manufacturing defect.
The engine malfunction shot pieces of metal shrapnel into the plane and passenger Jennifer Riordan was sucked into a smashed window, according to CNN.
She was later pulled back into the plane by passengers but later died.
When contacted yesterday about local concerns about Bahamasair’ fleet, Mr Turnquest said: “I’m satisfied that our maintenance programme is such where we’re doing all the necessary testing and maintenance review and we are in strict compliance with that.
“Those checks required every 24 months are done, one of our jets is just concluding one now and we just had one in December. We’re doing whatever we can.”
Metal fatigue was evident in preliminary investigations, according to the United States’ National Transportation Safety Board, which explained one of the engine’s fan blades had broken off from the point where it joined the rotating hub.
Bahamasair has three 737s in its fleet, and is looking to acquire another one, according to Mr Turnquest.
Yesterday, he told The Tribune he had similar concerns after reading news reports on the crash but was advised the incident was an anomaly given that signs of fatigue should have been picked up during maintenance checks.
“I saw the story, quite naturally as a nontechnical person I had to ask some questions. Based on my inquiries, most of the narrow body jets fly some variant of that type of engine, and the routine airworthiness standards require you check these fan blades. All of the narrow body jets have some form of that fan configuration as a part of the engine,” Mr Turnquest said.
“Routinely there are supposed to be checks before it gets to the stage where it would disengage. They would do all sorts of testing, nondestructive testing, ultrasound checks, to make sure there are no cracks in the blade and normally would be able to pick up on it before it got to that stage.
“It seems to have been somewhat of an anomaly so we continue to do our testing. Bahamasair prides itself on its safety record and maintenance schedule.”
The BBC reported that the Federal Aviation Administration Fan has said blades that have undergone a certain number of flights will have to be given ultrasonic tests.
“It added that the ‘airworthiness directive,’ which will require inspections of a large number of CFM56-7B engines, would be issued within the next two weeks,” the BBC noted.
“The CFM56-7B engine is in use on more than 8,000 Boeing 737 planes worldwide, the manufacturer says.”