The bird flew into the engine as the plane was going to take off and the impact damaged the titanium fan blades
The new Air Malta Airbus was speeding down the runway at Malta International Airport when a single bird flew into the jet engine and damaged the airplane’s titanium blades, a company engineer said. Stefan Grech, was speaking on Monday, on the incident last week that saw an Air Malta plane abort its takeoff after a bird strike. Grech said that out of 36 titanium fan blades, 24 were permanently damaged.
Air Malta engineer Stefan Grech holding one of the titanium blades damaged by the bird strike. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
The company gave the media access to its engineering hangar where repair works are currently underway. “The pilot saw it happening — it was just the one bird, likely a pigeon. The pilot in question had to activate full breaks which might have stressed the passengers on board,” Grech said, adding that in terms of expenses incurred, negotiations were still taking place and he could not give an indicative figure.
“The whole engine had to be removed and is now being replaced,” Grech said, adding that it’s likely that only one fan blade was damaged when the bird flew in the engine, but that since the airplane was going at full speed, the damaged blade, while turning, caused further damage to the rest of the blades. The hangar at the old airport terminal has two Airbuses, as another that was damaged at Gatwick Airport last week by a jetty bridge, is also being repaired. Grech explained that the new Airbus A320neo had to be flown back to Malta and the entire bathroom apartment inside the plane had to be pulled apart for the repairs to be made.
Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi visited the hangar and said that the government was ready to invest in Air Malta’s engineering section and especially in a bigger hangar to accommodate more planes. “Within a few days, Air Malta experienced two incidents—one in Gatwick when the fuselage was hit by a jetty bridge and one in Malta during a bird strike. In a few days, engineers already made progress and guaranteed full safety. “The government is ready to invest in Air Malta’s engineering section and the aim is for Air Malta to service other airlines,” he said, adding that Air Malta engineers had the potential to grow their production.
EASA safety directive
Just last week, the new Airbus A320neo was subject to a safety directive issued by the EU Aviation Safety Agency, which had found an issue with the aircraft’s centre of gravity envelope. The directive was issued on 31 July 2019 and became effective on 14 August 2019. Grech told MaltaToday that this was a normal procedure and a very minor issue, insisting that all necessary changes were being made.
“The directive simply states that some of the weight from the back of the aircraft has to be distributed to the front. It’s just a matter of shifting weight related to seating. If we do not obey directives, we wouldn’t be insured, so we are implementing it now. It’s a minor issue,” Grech said. Air Malta is gradually changing its fleet of aircraft to the new A320neo.