Last week one of the aircraft’s crew failed a line check, a formal test of airmanship measured against regulations, and previously failed an evacuation test, according to sources familiar with the matter. Although the carrier’s crew and aircraft will be given opportunities to redress the lapses, such re-evaluations can delay certification and approval to fly the aircraft.
A spokeswoman for Virgin Blue declined to comment on the specific incidents. “It is normal procedure for the aircraft and related personnel to undergo a series of exercises to ensure a high standard is met prior to entry into service. We will meet all required standards set by CASA before the aircraft commences services,” she says.
She cautions, however, that the carrier’s previously announced introduction of the aircraft “at the end of May” is “subject to regulatory approval”.
Approval from CASA is often planned on tight time frames. Virgin Blue’s 2000 launch was delayed by 28 days while the carrier had to pass a proving flight. Tiger Airways received its air operator’s certificate the night before its 23 November 2007 launch, becoming only the second airline in the country to receive its AOC on its first attempt.
Although Virgin chief executive John Borghetti has put in a new senior management team and implemented other staffing changes, those at Virgin Blue familiar with the situation attribute the A330′s setbacks to the project being placed with them, a narrowbody operator, instead of widebody operator V Australia.
CASA has so far declined to comment on ongoing operational matters.