NCA considers freighter fleet reduction after safety investigation

20 / 08 / 2018

Nippon Cargo Airlines (NCA) is considering no longer operating its three B747-400F aircraft in response to a business improvement order it was hit with last month over safety record concerns.

The Japanese carrier received the business improvement order from Japan’s ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLITT) following a government investigation into safety record maintenance as several incidents were incorrectly reported.

NCA also grounded its entire fleet of 11 aircraft in response to investigation, although two are now back in the air.

In a stock exchange announcement, NCA parent, NYK Group, said that growth in its fleet and volumes and the introduction of B747-8Fs as well as B747-400Fs had left the maintenance department understaffed.

One of the measures under consideration to solve the issue is to only operate one type of aircraft - the B747-8F. NCA currently operates eight B747-8Fs and three B747-400Fs.

“The maintenance division became unable to provide adequate systematic support to the actual maintenance operational division, creating an environment in which the maintenance operational division can make own decisions and interpretations as well as opinions could not be expressed to persons in charge with long experience and much knowledge, which led, as a result, falsification of the maintenance records and concealment,” NYK said.

As well as the fleet review, the airline also received five members of staff from strategic partner ANA in April 2018 “to strengthen the maintenance staff department and the maintenance operational division”.

NCA will receive three additional personnel from ANA in September to strengthen the management of the quality assurance, technical, and operational divisions.

Leaders from the technical management, production control and quality control departments will be stationed in the maintenance department to provide additional support, while the number of managers in 24-hour maintenance support departments outside of Narita will be increased from one to two during peak hours.

NYK said the details of the inappropriate maintenance, falsification of maintenance records, and concealment will be shared throughout the company, meetings will be held to foster awareness of safety and compliance, and training will be carried out.

Meanwhile, managers will provide increased monitoring and guidance and external experts will check each workstation. There will also be a system established to ensure the renewal of airworthiness certificates and airworthiness tests for aircraft.

“Until completing the restructure of the company's own maintenance system, the company will continue to consign maintenance companies in Hong Kong, HAECO, and Taiwan, EGAT, and plans to receive support from ANA,” NYK added.

In an update on Friday, NCA said: “[We] today submitted the preventive measures for the Business Improvement Order received from the MLIT on July 20, 2018, after analysing the background, problems and factors that contributed to the issues.

“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience that we caused our customers from the grounding of the aircraft and the suspension of the flights. We also apologise for the loss of trust as a result of the business improvement order.

“We will unite all staff and management to fully implement the preventive measures for re-starting a safe operation with a goal to recreate NCA from zero.”

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