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ATR funding wet-leased aircraft for CAL

MIRANDA LA ROSE Wednesday, January 11 2017

The grounding of Caribbean Airlines Limited ATR aircraft 9YTT Alpha on the Tobago air bridge has resulted in ATR America wet leasing a Swift Air aircraft to supplement the shortfall in services.

“The Swiss Air aircraft that is on lease for the next two months is being fully funded by ATR as a consequence of their aircraft not being able to fly,” CAL chairman Shameer Mohammed told the Joint Select Committee inquiring into State Enterprises on Monday.

The Swift Air aircraft will operate on the domestic air bridge between Trinidad and Tobago from January 7 to March.

Responding to the performance of CAL’s five ATRs, Mohammed said that 9YTTA and 9YTT Delta had been out of service with 9YTT D due to be back in service shortly.

Due to the shortfall in service of the aircraft which were bought in 2011 at a cost of $200 million, Mohammed said that ATR North America despatched a team to Trinidad to look at the aircraft.

“The engineers identified an air inflow issue in the 9YTTD. We are hopeful that the aircraft having undergone a successful test flight on Saturday will be back in service shortly,” he said.

Meanwhile, a decision was taken to ground 9YTTA, he said, after a series of fire warnings during flights.

He said there were four warning indicators, but no fire or no evidence of fire in any of the engines.

“We felt that the frequency of that occurring poses a risk and therefore we have grounded that aircraft,” he said. It was in that context, he said, that ATR was summoned to Trinidad to provide CAL with a plan to identify what was wrong with the aircraft.

As an airline, he said that CAL’s safety record was first and foremost and there was no room for error.

Asked what recourse CAL had to recover its investments, Mohammed said, “persons at CAL found it fit to waive their rights to sue the manufacturer.” The issues with the aircraft began in 2015.

Noting that the situation was totally unacceptable and needed to be looked at with some level of urgency, he said, “We have obtained a legal opinion from our attorneys in London and we are looking at all possible options that are available to the airline for whatever course of action deemed necessary.” CAL vice chairman Michael Quamina said that the contract that existed between CAL and ATR provided for a three-year warranty period, which in his view was “too short.” In exchange for getting the three-year warranty, he said, “the contract waived certain rights thereafter.

We are at present exploring the legality of that waiver in an effort to see what avenues are available to us in so far as recourse is concerned in relation to the concerns of the airline.” Some of ATRs top engineers were in the country recently for a substantial period of time looking at the aircraft, he said, adding that a senior technical staff will be permanently based in Trinidad at CAL’s request.



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