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10.08.2004 General News

Grounding of Ghana Airways in US, the lessors explain

By GRI

Ghana review international has sighted a copy of a letter from BCI Aircraft Leasing, the US company that granted the lease on the DC10s to Ghana Airways, to explain their opinion of the grounding of their aircraft by the US aviation authorities.

We reproduce here the said letter:

Dear Sir/Madam

The purpose of this letter is to clarify he incidents that led to the grounding of the Ghana Airways (hereafter GH) aircraft 9G-AND by the Federal Aviation Authority (hereafter FAA) and the revocation of the FAR 129 status of Ghana Airways.

I was informed of the possible grounding of the subject aircraft by the FAA, on the 23rd of July by the GH head of engineering, Mr. Ofori-Kwaki, due to some questions regarding the C-check.

I immediately sent a letter to the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) chief asking him not to ground the aircraft due to some allegations of what was going on. I even phoned Mr Ben Botu on his cell phone but his wife or daughter answered and told me that he was out of town.

Later that day I was told by Capt. Harlley that they are operating the flight on schedule since they received no instructions from either the FAA or GCAA asking them to do otherwise.

I agreed with both Mr Ofori-Kwaki and Capt. Harlley, as the authority to ground the aircraft is in the hands of GCAA and not the FAA due to the fact that the aircrafts are registered in Ghana and any maintenance questions has to be addressed through GCAA.

FAA can only recommend such actions, not carry them out. As far as my information is concerned, GCAA took no such actions when the aircraft took off on schedule on Sunday the 24th July.

After the grounding, I immediately contacted the FAA and the DOT. After numerous teleconferences, I flew to Baltimore to inspect the aircraft and meet the FAA inspectors.

Following are the details I uncovered, which I believe are the reasons for this major incident involving Ghana Airways and the FAA.

FAA's New York bureau chief, Mr John Morganti, informed me that they started an investigation into the Ghana Airways operated DC10 aircrafts after receiving numerous complaints and allegations from several people.

They met the aircrafts few times in New York and wrote up items that needed immediate attention of Ghana Airways engineering and requested some paperwork to support the maintenance done to the aircraft at Avtel.

Mr Morgandi claims that most of the items they wrote up did not get fixed when they met a month later. He recalls a meeting with Ghana Airways engineering and GCAA in Baltimore and explained to both parties what needs to be done to avoid any adverse actions by the FAA against GG. The date he mentioned was 29th of May.

He said the FAA structure specialist gave specific information on what areas they had concerns about and gave GH, 30 days to fix them and report back to FAA with the paperwork to prove that all structural concerns have been addressed.

FAA told me they received nothing from GH or GCAA. Instead they were told by someone at GH that the aircraft leases were expiring and the aircrafts in question will be returned back to the lessor.

So the FAA stood by, hoping Ghana Airways will soon be flying different aircrafts.

When that did not happen, FAA again gave GH engineering and GCAA a deadline to provide proof of fixing all the problems FAA pointed out.

Instead they found that all the discrepancies, including a hydraulic leak FAA inspector wrote up, was still there, a month later. That's when they decided to take severe action against GH. Only action they really could take was to remove the aircraft in question from the ops specs until all the problems are resolved.

Ghana Airways attorney in New York somehow manage to add fuel to the fire by not filling the FAR129 renewal on time.

There is also the allegation that when the FAA contacted the repair station, Avtel, regarding the check they performed, they stated that only a simple re-activation was done to the aircraft even though it was due for a C-check.

So far, Avtel is denying making such a statement. BCI has proof that a major check was performed. Not a complete C-check but a major structural check to address outstanding AD's, corrosion inspection and corrosion prevention to escalate the airframe time by 3,000 hours.

If a C-check was performed, the time could have been extended by 8,400 hours per the maintenance program. The provision for this kind of time escalation is written in to the maintenance program and the check was done under the watchful eye of the Ghana CAA. BCI Aircraft will take into task any persons or entities that allege that the aircraft was sent into revenue service straight out of the desert parking area, without a major check.

Any such public statements will be regarded as slander and we will take severe legal actions against such persons. Mr John Morganti of the FAA is in receipt of the master work sheet of the check performed and he down is playing the Avtel statement.

The above-mentioned facts clearly points to a total breakdown in communication between Ghana engineering, Ghana civil aviation authority and the FAA. There is plenty of blame to go all around who were involved in this investigation. BCI aircraft leasing was kept in the dark, completely, during this time.

I have inspected the aircraft in Baltimore. As an FAA licensed A&P technician with over 8 years experience in commercial aircraft maintenance, discrepancies I found on the aircraft, do not justify the FAA actions. It does however warrant a closer inspection. As former crew chief of American airlines DC10 and 767 B check program at LAX, my recommendation would have been to return this aircraft to service and schedule a corrosion inspection within 30 days, on the suspect areas. Any Engineer, who has been around the DC10 aircraft long enough, will with me on this decision.

Mr Morganti also mentioned of an incident someone has reported which involved the aircraft loosing all of its navigation instruments in flight. I have contacted every person at the CAA in UK and in Germany, trying to verify this incident with no luck. Personally, I have serious trouble believing this. It has all the earmarks of an attempt to discredit Ghana Airways, by individuals or organizations with an ulterior motive.

I firmly believe the actions of the FAA is intended more towards making a statement to GH and the Ghana CAA for their non-compliance than an actual safety concern. It is standard practice for the FAA to make certain recommendations to airlines and expect the carrier to immediately implement those recommendations. FAA does not take non-compliance lightly. This incident is all about missed opportunities and lack of responsibility on the part of Ghana Airways engineering and Ghana civil aviation authority.

Same sentiment was expressed by a high-ranking official at the US department of transportation who was aware of the circumstances that led to the revocation of FAR 129. He also insisted that the quickest way to resolve the 129 status issue is for the highest ranking officers of GH and Ghana CAA to meet with DOT officials in person, in Washington DC. Since we have already faced the worst possible case scenario, it is time to stop finger pointing and start working towards resolving these issues and getting Ghana Airways back in to its regular flight schedule.

This letter is intended to clarify the facts behind the incident and in no way intended to lay blame or point fingers.

On my recommendation, BCI is getting ready to give GH a replacement DC10-30 for 9G-AND, in KSSU configuration (all galleys in upper deck), which came out of service from Air Liberte. It had a D check performed by Finair in Finland 1200 hours ago. This aircraft will be ready for service within two weeks. However, this can only be accomplished by the swift actions of the Ghana Airways chairman and the board of directors, working in harmony with BCI aircraft leasing.

BCI aircraft leasing is standing by; ready to help Ghana Airways get back in the air in full force.

Thanking you Sincerely

SIGNED

Ben Sirimanne Vice president / engineering and technical services BCI Aircraft Leasing

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