PARIS, Jan 24 (AFP) – Officials at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport confirmed on Saturday that a chartered Egyptian Airbus A320 had been grounded as a safety precaution after a technical problem with one of its power units.
The aircraft, which arrived in Paris from Egypt with five crew members and 134 passengers on board, has been stopped from taking off again since Thursday by the airport’s deputy administrator after staff noticed smoke coming from the plane.
The incident came just three weeks after an Egyptian Flash Airlines Boeing 737 crashed in the Red Sea, killing all 148 people on board, who included 134 French nationals.
The deputy administrator, Jacques Lebrot, said he had stopped the plane from leaving as a precaution because he was worried about “uncertainties”.
State investigators said the smoke was caused by a problem with the plane’s auxillary power unit after it landed in Paris.
Passengers waiting in Paris to fly out on the Airbus, which belonged to Egypt’s Lotus Air and was chartered by French tour operator Marmara, were held up for nine hours and eventually left for Egypt on another Airbus. The original plane has remained on the tarmac at the airport.
A spokeswoman for the airline told AFP in Cairo that the grounding of the plane was “a banal (insignificant) incident, of the sort experienced by many planes from time to time”.
The problem with the power unit – which is used to power such things as the plane’s air conditioning when the engines are not running – triggered off an automatic fire extinguisher and left a hole in the aircraft’s fuselage, according to the French Bureau of Accident Investigation (BEA), which is investigating the incident. The causes of the problem have not yet been made clear.
French newspaper Le Parisien reported on Saturday that smoke had been detected, a hole 40 centimetres (16 inches) in diameter had been discovered in the plane’s fuselage and two lengths of electrical wire had been found on the runway.
But Lotus’ technical director, Nabil Nassif, denied the plane’s alarm systems had failed. “Nothing like that happened,” he said from Cairo.
The plane, one of six A320s owned by Lotus, was being repaired by Airbus in Paris, he said.
French officials denied a police inquiry had been launched into the incident but said the plane’s black boxes were being examined and the civil aviation authority had refused the plane permission to take off, “even for a technical flight” for repairs elsewhere.
Le Parisien had said the Lotus plane had been grounded after the pilot refused to file an accident report and had said he was preparing to take off again three hours later for Egypt.
This report was apparently contradicted by state investigators, who said the air crew did not want to return to Cairo in the plane until it had been repaired.
France has requested the creation of a “security label” for charter companies used by tour operators since the Red Sea disaster on January 3, which would identify those charter firms offering the best safety guarantees.
Subject: France news