China Airlines has appointed an experienced ex-Cathay Pacific Airways engineering executive to head its maintenance and engineering department in the wake of recent safety incidents, including the loss of a Boeing 737-800 after a ground fire.

The appointment comes as another of the airline's 737-800s almost ran off the runway during take-off from Saga airport in Japan.

Derek Cridland, who left Cathay Pacific in 2006 after 25 years, has become senior vice-president for maintenance and engineering. He had joined CAL in March as an adviser to the chairman "in the field of maintenance, which is his expertise", says the airline.

Cridland will lead a new team at CAL tasked with further enhancing its safety standards. He succeeds the departed Lee Wen-tsai.

The 737-800 incident at Saga on 5 October was the result of a major discrepancy between the readings on the two pilots' airspeed indicators, says CAL. The aircraft only became airborne at the end of the runway, and the crew then elected to return to Saga due to concerns over the indicators.

One of the airline's 737-800s was destroyed on 20 August in a fire after landing at Naha airport in southern Japan. Another CAL 737-800 was grounded after a 77cm (30in) crack was discovered in the rear fuselage.