The insurers of a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Airbus A330-300 damaged by a cargo hold chemical leak have finally declared the aircraft a constructive total loss.

The spill occurred on a flight from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur on 15 March 2000, though Airbus did not complete its assessment of the cost of repairs required until early March this year. The six-year-old aircraft is believed to have been insured for in excess of $90 million.

Based on the results of the Airbus evaluation the aircraft's insurers have declared the aircraft a write-off, say industry sources in Kuala Lumpur. The toxic chemical caused corrosive damage primarily to the aircraft's cargo- hold, wingbox structure and landing gear, the sources say.

The sources add that the insurers are considering whether to pursue a claim against the company responsible for shipping the hazardous cargo, on the basis that the consignment had been "misdeclared". Some 2t of the chemical, contained within a large number of canisters, had been due for onward shipment to Chennai, India.

Five airport workers fell ill as they unloaded baggage from the A330 at Kuala Lumpur immediately after the chemical spill. Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation has not released any findings from its investigation.

Source: Flight International