21 August 2009
What would you do if you were flying on a plane, looked outside your window, and saw a bunch of missing or loose screws? If you were a passenger with a convenient window seat on Jat Airways Flight JU 5245 on 14 August 2009, you would have done the right thing by bringing it to the attention of the airline and the news media.
According to a report in the Serbian newspaper Blic, this particular aircraft, a 737, was on a flight from the Greek islands to Belgrade, and the flight took off in spite of having a panel on the left engine strut with at least five loose screws and one screw that was completely missing.
One of the editors from the Blic newspaper provided AirSafe.com with a number of photos, one of which clearly shows the missing and loose screws in the foreground, and the Greek city of Heraklion, on the island of Crete, in the background. The aircraft, which arrived safety in Belgrade after its charter flight from Greece, was apparently a 737-300 aircraft with the tail number JU-AON. According to Planespotters.net, the aircraft is almost 22 years old, and was previously operated by at least two other airlines, Transbrasil and Region Air.
According to Blic, Jat airways told both the passengers and the newspapers that it was a small problem that would not have affected the safety of that aircraft. No one at AirSafe.com has specific experience or expertise when it comes to general 737 aircraft maintenance procedures, or the particular maintenance procedures and flight operations rules at Jat Airwarys. However, it would be safe to assume that for most passengers, allowing an airliner to fly with loose and missing screws are an obvious cause for concern. Most passengers would hope that if the maintenance crew or flight crew were aware of such a condition, that the condition should either be corrected, or the proper procedures be followed to address the issue before allowing the aircraft to fly.
Given the location of the loose and missing screws, it is possible that if the the panel or other structure associated with the screws came loose in flight, that it could fly off and strike other parts of the aircraft. Also, a failure in one part of the aircraft skin or structure, for example a panel peeling off in flight, could cause damage to adjacent areas of the aircraft.
After being contacted by the Blic newspaper, AirSafe.com suggested that the newspaper should attempt to contact Jat Airways and to ask and answer the following questions:
- Were the flight crews or maintenance crews aware of the loose and missing screws before the flight?
- Did the maintenance and flight crew follow Jat Airways procedures with respect to the missing and loose screws?
- Are the airline's procedures consistent with Boeing's recommended procedures for the 737-300?
- Are the airline's procedures consistent with the regulations and laws of the Serbian civil aviation authorities?
- How many flights did this aircraft make before the condition was corrected?
- Are missing screws a common occurrence with aircraft in the Jat Airways fleet?
While Blic investigates this incident, the AirSafe.com News would like to ask its readers for feedback, especially from pilots, maintenance technicians, and airline safety professionals, about this particular issue. Feel free to leave comments on this blog posting, or to contact AirSafe.com directly.