FIRST minister Nicola Sturgeon has promised to contact Loganair directly about its poor performance after passengers reported smoke and flames coming from an engine during an aborted flight from Glasgow to Sumburgh on Wednesday.
Sturgeon was responding to questions from Orkney MSP Liam McArthur in the Scottish Parliament calling on her to urge the airline to restore public confidence after the latest in a “long running saga” of technical faults.
Loganair meanwhile said inspectors had found no internal damage to the faulty engine on Wednesday and insisted they were well on their way to resolving the technical problems blighting the airline at the moment.
The latest comments came after two passengers on board Wednesday’s flight told BBC Radio Shetland of the frightening experience they went through before the plane was diverted to Aberdeen where it landed using a single engine.
Guitarist Ags Connolly was on board the Saab 340 travelling to Shetland as part of this weekend’s Thomas Fraser Festival.
“I was sitting right by the window and it seemed to me the engine was coughing out some kind of smoke and fire and then the propeller stopped,” he said.
“It took probably 15 minutes for the pilot to make an announcement and he said they had a problem with the engine and we were being diverted to Aberdeen.”
Local businesswoman Veronica Rocks added: “There was a strong smell of burning and I could see some smoke coming from the wing.
“About five or ten minutes later the pilot spoke and said they had a wee problem with the engine and they had decided to switch it off.”
She said the pilot had reassured passengers the plane was designed to fly on a single engine and the other engine was fine.
“They were very controlled about it and they did calm everybody, but it was feeling a bit on the scary side really, especially for me, I’m not really a good flyer,” she said.
Explaining Wednesday’s incident, a Loganair spokesman said the pilot shut down the engine as “a precaution after a warning light indicated a potential fault”.
He added: “Upon landing the engine was inspected and no internal damage has been found.
“Loganair has received positive feedback from passengers via handling agents at Aberdeen airport praising the crew’s professionalism and smooth landing.”
The spokesman reiterated that safety was its number one priority and no aircraft left the ground if the pilot had any concerns.
He said the recent “punctuality issues” were primarily due to “an unusually high number of people retiring or moving on from our engineering division”.
The airline is now “well into the process” of recruiting and training new technicians with ten new engineers joining the Saab maintenance team.
“Another six are currently completing a Twin Otter course, and we will shortly initiate an apprentice scheme aimed at future-proofing us against the worldwide shortage of aviation engineers,” he said.
“We are sincerely sorry for the impact the recent issues have caused our passengers but we are confident that the plan being implemented will successfully resolve the difficulties that our passengers have been facing.”
McArthur told Holyrood that this latest experience followed a similar incident on a Loganair flight last week from Manchester to Inverness and was “the latest chapter in a long running saga of problems affecting the airline”.
Responding to McArthur’s call for her to meet or speak directly with the company, Sturgeon said: “There are real concerns about performance and yesterday’s emergency landing is cause for considerable concern, not least for those that were on that plane.
“I am more than happy to make the views of the Scottish government known directly to the chief executive of the company because we expect the highest standards for people who rely on these services.”
Following the debate, transport minister Derek Mackay wrote a fresh letter to Loganair chief executive Stewart Adams for an update on progress, following a meeting with the company on 15 September.
Meanwhile northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael has called on the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to explain publicly any concerns it has with Loganair.
“There has to be public confidence and the people who give us that confidence are the Civil Aviation Authority,” he said.
“I have been told they have been monitoring the situation very closely since June.
“I think they should now be telling us why they have done that, what they have found and exactly what level of concerns they have at the moment.”
In a statement, the CAA said: “Aviation safety is our top priority and we ensure all UK registered airlines meet strict European safety standards.
“We work closely with Loganair and all other UK airlines on a continual basis, to provide safety oversight and advice.
“We can confirm that Loganair meets these European safety requirements.”
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