HK Airlines asked to address concerns over falling plane parts

May 31, 2019 16:40
A total of eight planes operated by Hong Kong Airlines were found to have suffered from falling parts since May 26, according to Japanese media reports. Photo: Reuters

Hong Kong’s aviation authority has demanded explanations from a local airline company as to why its commercial jets had seen some of their components breaking off multiple times over the past few days.

The Civil Aviation Department (CAD) on Wednesday said it has asked Hong Kong Airlines, a member of China’s HNA Group, to submit as soon as possible a detailed report on the incidents, which its spokesperson had claimed had no impact on the safety of the planes in question, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

According to Japanese media reports, a total of eight planes operated by the company were found to have suffered from falling parts since May 26, involving a total of 19 pieces. All of them were flights between Hong Kong and Tokyo’s Narita International Airport.

One of the reports said Narita’s airport authorities had to close a runway and ensure the parts had not fallen there, delaying other flights, and that authorities later determined that the missing parts may have fallen off during the flight.

Local media cited Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism as saying that it is “unusual that components from several airplanes of the same airline fell off successively in such a short period of time”, The Standard reported.

Responding to media inquiries, Hong Kong Airlines said all of its flights have to undergo careful inspection before taking off, adding that the missing items are usually only small screws that did not pose any safety risk.

It also said it had taken the initiative to report the incidents to both Hong Kong and Japanese civil aviation authorities.

"The small missing item is usually a screw and washer set which falls within operationally acceptable regulatory standards and does not pose any safety risk or violation," The Standard quoted the airline as saying.

It said all of its aircraft are carefully inspected before each flight. "We abide by the strict requirements set out by our aircraft manufacturer and regulatory authorities for every flight dispatch. We will continue to uphold our inspection and maintenance standards."

In response to inquiries from HKEJ, Hong Kong Airlines admitted that the reported incidents did take place and the latest one, which happened on Wednesday, involved flight HX609 as it was about to leave Narita airport for Hong Kong.

In the latest incident, two screws loosened and fell out of the airplane's wing, necessitating repair. As a result, the flight was delayed for as about six hours before it took off at 10:03 p.m. on the same day, the airline said.

Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho, a commercial pilot, said on Wednesday it is uncommon to have frequent cases of missing plane parts within a short period of time, suspecting there could be a design problem with a particular model of aircraft, RTHK reported.

The CAD should investigate whether the problem involves maintenance issues. or is related to the aircraft's design, Tam added.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan told media on Friday the CAD is very concerned about the reported incidents.

Both the CAD and Hong Kong Airlines said the situation does not affect aviation safety, but the CAD is very serious about following it up, Chan said.

He said the CAD had earlier met with the management of Hong Kong Airlines, and called on the airline to carry out a comprehensive detailed inspection and give an account of it to the department.

The CAD has also performed on-site inspections to make sure the airline's flights and the city's aviation safety are not affected, Chan added.

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