MEXICO CITY — The CEO of Mexican airline Interjet, Jose Luis Garza, has restated that passenger safety is the company’s top priority, in light of the decision to ground 11 of its 22 Sukhoi Superjet 100s, despite the subsequent delays and cancellations that such decision implies.
“It’s unfortunate for the passengers, yes, but safety prevails over any commercial or brand reputation situation,” he declared on an interview with local aviation media outlet EnElAire.
Garza mentions that following the airworthiness directive (AD), issued by Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsia) regarding stabilizer bracket attachment band issues, found on Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft, they have decided to ground part of their fleet in order to perform all the necessary inspections.
Therefore, and after performing the inspections, 11 aircraft have been grounded within a day, while 10 others remain in service after no issues were found. Another Superjet remains in routinary maintenance.
“The airworthiness directive instructs us to perform a visual inspection of the aircraft during a walk around. If any anomaly is found, then, the aircraft must be grounded, otherwise, it can keep active in the flight line. This job was performed in cooperation with the manufacturer here in Mexico and with our local aviation authority. Ten were in optimal condition, 11 were found to have the anomaly, and another one is under routinary maintenance.”
Garza mentions that it was on December 23rd when Russian authorities issued the airworthiness directive that required the stabilizer inspection of every Sukhoi Superjet 100 in service.
Thus, he claims the media speculations that linked the December 24th Tupolev 154 crash in the Black Sea that left 92 casualties with the airworthiness directive issued towards the Superjet to be irresponsible.
“There is no relationship between both situations. While the crash is truly unfortunate, it holds no relationship whatsoever with the inspections and the safety of our aircraft”
To date, Interjet has 45 Airbus A320s and A321s in its fleet, which operate alongside the remaining 10 SSJ100s in service.
Interjet uses its SSJ100s for short and medium haul routes, both domestic and international. The grounding of half of its fleet means that there will be a significant number of cancellations and delays across their network.
About this situation, Garza affirms that the manufacturer is performing the necessary measures to address and correct the issue and return the grounded aircraft to service.
“These sort of airworthiness directives are not rare or unusual, it happens to different aircraft whether newer or older. At this moment, the manufacturer is addressing the technical issue. It has already found a solution but it has to be in compliance with the relevant authorities, and at this moment we are awaiting a new airworthiness directive that explains what needs to be done”
Garza mentions that within the next few weeks the 11 grounded aircraft are expected to be fully operational and back in service.
He resembles the situation to that of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner regarding the electrical fires with its lithium batteries, that resulted in the decision of the authorities and the manufacturer to ground the entire fleet for several weeks until the issue was fixed.
Regarding the Superjet 100, He insisted that it plays a pivotal role in Interjet’s short and medium haul routes where larger aircraft cannot be operated profitably. “We selected it because it is the best in its category, and the fact that we are subjected to this directive does not jeopardize the long term stability of this aircraft in our fleet.”
Garza restated that the solution for passengers who have been affected by the situation is to select one of the alternatives such as travelling by road, changing dates, postponing the flight, among others, with incentives provided by the airline.