Herman De Wulf/BRUSSELS

Delayed C-check maintenance on a Nigerian Boeing 707-320C freighter is being linked to the loss of its No 3 engine over Southern Belgium on 14 October.

Belgian accident investigators say that the IAT Cargo aircraft, which made an emergency landing at Ostend, should have had aC-check, but its airworthiness certificate had been extended by the Nigerian authorities.

The Belgian transport ministry has ordered an investigation into why the aircraft was found airworthy by its civil aviation agency two weeks before the accident and was allowed to fly, after ramp engineers at Ostend Airport had commented on its poor condition. The Belgian civil aviation authority, however, had inspected the 31-year-old 707 within the European Union Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft agreement at the demand of the Ostend Airport authority, which also had doubts about the aircraft's airworthiness. The inspectors found no indication that the aircraft failed to meet international airworthiness regulations.

The aircraft's pilots said the707-320C hit turbulence while flying in a thunderstorm 20min after take-off, causing the failure of a bolt holding the Pratt & Whitney JT3D engine in place. The engine was found in a wood.

Race Cargo of Ostend, which wet-leased the aircraft, had its licence temporarily withdrawn by the Belgian authorities. Romanian airline Tarom's licence to operate a 707 freighter into Belgium was also withdrawn after its aircraft nearly hit a supermarket at the end of the same runway after two aborted take-off runs on 24 October.

Source: Flight International