Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Older Planes Less Reliable?

A Boeing 737 belonging to Jet2 has made two emergency landings in as many weeks, leading some commentators to question whether the advanced age of the aircraft is affecting its reliability. 

The plane was forced to land at Barcelona on July 16, as it flew from Ibiza to Leeds/Bradford. Twelve days later, on July 28, it made another forced landing at Frankfurt en route from Newcastle to Prague. 

The airline is investigating both incidents but claims passenger safety was not compromised on either flight. Nevertheless, commentators have been quick to point out the age of the aircraft – registered as G-CELI. It was manufactured in 1986, making it almost as old as this reporter. But are older planes really more likely to go wrong? 

Not according to Patrick Smith, a US pilot and author of Cockpit Confidential.  “Commercial aircraft are built to last more or less indefinitely, which is one of the reasons why they’re so expensive,” he told Telegraph Travel. “It’s common for a jet to remain in service for 25 years or more.”  Smith claims that as planes get older they come under ever greater scrutiny. “Inspection criteria grow increasingly strict,” he said. 

So if planes are built to last more or less indefinitely, why are they retired after just 30-odd years – or in many cases sooner? 

“Planes are sold, traded or mothballed not because they’ve grown old and are falling apart, but because they’ve become uneconomical to operate,” said Smith. 

Full report in The Telegraph.