Concerns soar over flight reliability

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David Stewart MSP is seeking cross-party support for an urgent meeting over flight reliability to the Scottish Islands.

Mr Stewart, Highland and Islands, was responding to media reports in relation to the pilot’s union The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), sending an internal letter to Loganair. It claimed pilots had complained about aircraft being ‘returned to the line despite being unserviceable’ and that, ‘in some cases, they retain defects that clearly affect flight safety’.

In a letter to Transport and Islands Minister, Derek Mackay, he said: “This is a very real concern and one that I am aware of from my own contacts with constituents.

“Particularly concerning are parts of the letter relating to questions about safety.

“For example, the letter states ‘aircraft retain defects that clearly affect flight safety.’

“ I do note that the Chief Executive, Stewart Adams, emphasised that no pilot would leave the ground if they had safety concerns. This at least is reassuring.

“ I have been working with other Highlands and Island MSPs and the local campaign group set up by Scott Preston, to deal with the excessive charges for flights to and from our islands by Loganair/Flybe and thus far this particular issue is being addressed, but then we have become aware of the issues surrounding unreliability of the aircraft.”

Also concerned by the issue is Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan, who has written to the airline to seek reassurances.

Mr Allan said: “I am not going to try to offer an opinion about the condition of Loganair’s aircraft, but the company’s pilots clearly have done, and the company now needs to respond to that.

“As a twice weekly frequent user of Loganair planes, I have no doubt about the professionalism of pilots and there is no suggestion from this correspondence that planes have actually been flown in an unsatisfactory condition.

“However, pilots have made their views very clear indeed about their concerns about the aircraft, and Loganair now need to move swiftly to reassure the travelling public.”

Meanwhile, Western Isles Councillor Donald Crichton called for the company to invest in new aircraft.

He said: “In light of the concerns recently raised by the pilots’ union BALPA and increasing incidents whether breakdowns or engines failing involving the Saab 340, it is time Loganair started to invest in a new fleet of aircraft and to make the resources available so that they are serviceable and safe.

“Maybe now Loganair will start listening if the pilots are raising concerns. We were assured by Loganair Chief Executive Stewart Adams at the last Transportation Committee that the Saab 340 was safe and reliable.

“The travelling public are fed up with the tired and dated Saab 340 whose poor service record has contributed to the ongoing unacceptable disruption to our air services.”

The Loch a Tuath councillor concluded: “At the Comhairle’s Transportation Committee Mr Adams laid great store in their plan to invest in refurbishing the interior of the Saab 340 fleet.

“Perhaps rather than trying to paper over the cracks and giving them a lick of paint Mr Adams should be investing in a new fleet of aircraft and a fully-resourced engineering department to ensure our air services are safe and reliable.”

Loganair Chief Executive Stewart Adams defended the company’s position, saying: “First and foremost, let me make it absolutely clear that the safety of our crews and passengers is and always will be our number one priority.

“The final decision on whether or not a flight departs is always in the hands of the pilot, and we know that none of our pilots would ever leave the ground if he or she had any safety concerns.

“We operate around 34,000 services per annum and are subject to regular inspections by the CAA, which is considered to be one of the most stringent aviation authorities in the world.”

Talking about reliability he declared that the company were working on measures for improvements, which includes a spares hub at Glasgow airport, appointments to engineering and operational divisions and back-up aircraft at Aberdeen and Glasgow.

He continued: “The investment Loganair is currently undertaking to improve operational performance is significant.

‘‘We are confident it will have a positive effect on services we have provided for our valued customers for more than half a century.