Safety issues grounds Tiger Airways

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Tiger Airways Australia, a subsidiary of Singapore-based Tiger Airways Holdings, was grounded Saturday for five days by Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority over a series of safety issues with their A320 planes.

In an unprecedented move, CASA said it no longer had “confidence in the ability of Tiger Airways Australia to satisfactorily address the safety issues that have been identified.” CASA has been monitoring TT since January; it issued a “show cause” notice in April expressing concerns. Following TT’s response to the show cause notice, CASA said it imposed a number of conditions on the airline’s air operator’s certificate.

According to CASA, these conditions required actions to improve the proficiency of TT’s pilots, enhance the airline’s pilot training and checking processes, make changes to fatigue management, improve maintenance control and ongoing airworthiness systems, and ensure appropriately qualified people fill management and operational positions.

CASA is expected to apply to Australian federal court to extend the grounding beyond the five days, a move that could keep the airline’s 10 Airbus A320s idle for some time. Two safety breaches by TT pilots over the past week, including an incident of flying too low, prompted CASA to ground the airline.

Tiger Airways Holdings CEO Tony Davis arrived in Australia Monday to take charge of negotiations with CASA. In a statement, Davis said he was “very disappointed” that the airline had been grounded.

Though CASA declined to comment, industry sources said the watchdog wants the airline to make a range of management changes and to re-qualify all of its pilots in third-party simulators before allowing operations to recommence. The requirements could take up to a month to fulfill, affecting up to 35,000 passengers a week. The weekly cost to TT in lost revenue is estimated at as much as A$1.5 million ($1.7 million).

TT’s grounding comes less than two weeks after the release of a report by Australia’s Senate on airline safety that included 22 recommendations. High among them were tougher safety standards, better incident-reporting guidelines and increased training of pilots.

CASA grounded Ansett Australia’s Boeing 767 fleet in 2000 and 2001 over various safety breaches. The airline collapsed in September 2001.

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