Fiji Airways pilot stood down for hard landing

JAMIE FREED
Last updated 08:00 18/07/2014

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Fiji Airways has stood down one of its pilots from flying and moved to fixed processes within its flying operations in the wake of a hard landing one of its A330 aircraft made in Sydney in March.

The hard landing, which reportedly produced around 2.9G vertical acceleration - or nearly three times the force of gravity - and seriously injured a flight attendant, occurred when a flight from Nadi to Sydney landed at Sydney Airport on March 18.

The aircraft departed Sydney for Nadi one hour behind schedule and reached Nadi without further incident, but examination in Nadi found substantial overstress damage to the landing gear. The aircraft was taken out of service for five weeks for repairs.

"After this incident ... we had an internal investigation," Fiji Airways chief executive Stefan Pichler said. "We immediately released the pilot from flying. The pilot isn't flying - he is with us, but has a ground job now."

Fiji Airways has appointed a new general manager of operations, Ken Barley, who was formerly at Cathay Pacific to help improve its systems and processes in flight operations.

The airline on Thursday unveiled a record FJ$17.2 million (NZ$11.5 million) first-half underlying operating profit, but that excluded $FJ8.6 million (A$5 million) of costs from the hard landing incident that were not covered by insurance.

Under Mr Pichler's leadership, Fiji Airways has improved its profitability substantially from an underlying operating profit of FJ$500,000  in the first half last year to this year's figure of FJ$17.2 million.

He said the improvement had been driven by a mix of cost cutting and revenue improvement, which included a 7.1 percentage point factor in the percentage of seats filled to 82 per cent.

However, the weaker Australian dollar against the Fijian dollar meant returns on fares from Australia fell.

"We had a stellar performance in New Zealand, the US and the South Pacific," Pichler said.

The airline's domestic division reported a small loss in the first half. Mr Pichler said the domestic arm was limited by poor airport infrastructure that made it difficult to fly larger planes which would produce better returns.

Fiji Airways hopes to pay a dividend to its shareholders, which include Qantas Airways, if it makes a full-year profit.

The airline has also been working to improve its in-flight experience. It has introduced new hot meals in economy class flights from Australia to Fiji and will unveil a new business class food and improved magazine and duty free shopping experience from September 1.

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It also recently launched direct flights from Sydney to Suva, which Pichler said was more focused on government, NGO and business traffic than the leisure focus of flights to Nadi.

- FFX Aus

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