The Office of the Opposition has accused the Board and Management of Air Vanuatu of concealing the real story behind the acquisition of the Airbus A220 aircraft.
“The Government has hastily bulldozed its finances without Parliament endorsement and now, recently with the Pacific Tour of the plane under airBaltic, Air Vanuatu has gone ahead and signed the deal on the Airbus A220,” Leader of Opposition, Ishmael Kalsakau stated yesterday.
“International media coverage reflects that despite a US led investigation into a series of engine failure on the Airbus, Air Vanuatu Management are not divulging the severity of these investigations.
“The Opposition Office is not condemning the government VTO partnership with Air Vanuatu to invest and promote the tourism industry but the public of Vanuatu must be updated on the economic viability of these Airbuses.
“Safety is a number one requirement plus overall, the reputation and integrity of Air Vanuatu. It looks likely that the government’s Council of Ministers is bowing too much to the direction and leading of the Board of Air Vanuatu. Transparency and accountability is sought here for the sake of tourists and Ni-Vanuatu travellers and it is up to Air Vanuatu to keep us updated on the safety and operation of these new Airbus.”
In response, the management of Air Vanuatu acknowledges the concerns raised by the Office of the Opposition about engine failures on Airbus A220 aircraft in service in Europe and North America.
“Air Vanuatu has selected the A220 as the aircraft that will support its future growth plans,” the airline stated.
“The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating a recent engine failure on a Swiss Airlines A220, as it is standard procedure in the aviation industry.
“The Geneva bound flight diverted to Paris without further incident. Following this event, Swiss performed visual engine borescope inspections on all its aircraft and then promptly returned them all to service, reporting the engines to be in ‘impeccable’ condition.
“Other operators, including airBaltic, Delta Air Lines and Korean Airlines have also inspected their aircraft without reporting any problems. The engine manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney, has recommended an engine low pressure compressor speed limitation during flight operations while a fix is developed for the issue that caused this engine failure.”
Air Vanuatu noted it has been publicly reported that this recent engine failure and two earlier ones on Swiss Airlines A220 aircraft occurred after the installation of a new version of electronic engine-control software and the software is being updated accordingly.
“As is common on new engine programs, early production examples of the A220 engines have experienced reliability problems, which led to the first operators, including airBaltic and Swiss, to remove a number of engines for repairs and upgrades,” Air Vanuatu conveyed.
“We understand that these initial reliability problems appear now to have been resolved.
“Versions of the PW100G engines installed on the A220 are also installed on the Embraer E190E2 and the Airbus A320neo and A321neo. These aircraft are in operation with or have been ordered by AirCalin, Air Kiribati and Air New Zealand.
“Today, the A220 fleet is operating throughout Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, carrying approximately 55,000 passengers a day. Fleet wide dispatch reliability is currently 98.55% which means that only 1.45% of flights are cancelled for maintenance issues of any kind.”
Air Vanuatu has conducted rigorous technical evaluations of all aspects of Airbus A220 operations. Since ordering the aircraft in February 2019, members of its technical team have participated in all flight operations and maintenance operations in airline committee meetings and we have been fully aware of all issues and developments related to the aircraft. Air Vanuatu employees have also had extensive on-site meetings with airBaltic and Swiss Airlines.
Air Vanuatu will take delivery of its first A220 aircraft in June 2020. The engine manufacturer has committed that the engines installed on that first aircraft will meet all the airworthiness standards then in affect.
“We are confident that this aircraft will be safe to fly,” Air Vanuatu stated.
According to Air Vanuatu CEO, Derek Nice, Air Vanuatu will benefit from full warranty coverage on the engines when it takes delivery and Pratt & Whitney has expressed its commitment to support safe and reliable operations of the Airbus A220 in Air Vanuatu service.
“Like other operators and customers including AirBaltic, Air Canada, Air Tanzania, Delta Air Lines, Egypt Air, JetBlue, Korean Airlines and Swiss Airlines, we have full confidence in this aircraft. It has been certified to the latest regulatory standards and incorporates the latest safety systems. It is the most advanced aircraft in its class available today.”