Structural fears prompt move to ground Australian-made planes.

1028
July 20, 2019
Australian plane cleared
Photo: Bidgee/Wikicommons

An Australian-made plane involved in a fatal accident in Sweden that killed nine people has been grounded because of worries about potential structural problems.

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority said Saturday it had temporarily suspended the operations of GippsAero GA8 aircraft in the wake of the crash during a Skydiving flight on July 14 near Umea in northern Sweden.

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There are 63 GA8 aircraft registered in Australia out of a worldwide fleet of 228. The Australian planes are used in a range of operations including charter, aerial work and parachuting.

The GA8 is a single-engine utility aircraft manufactured in Australia by GippsAero, which is based in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, and flown worldwide.

The Australian action is in addition to European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) emergency Airworthiness Directive prohibiting GA8 flights.

EASA said indications were that the plane in Sweden suffered a structural failure while flying at an altitude of about 4000m.

“Early reports are that a wing may have detached from the aeroplane prior to the accident, but, at this time, the root cause of the accident cannot be confirmed,’’ it said.

CASA said it had temporarily suspended GA8 operations as a precautionary step pending the outcome of further investigation by Swedish and European authorities.

“The temporary suspension will be for up to 15 days from midnight 20 July to midnight 3 August 2019 and affects all GA8 aircraft operating in Australia and all Australian registered GA8 aircraft operating overseas,’’ it said.

“CASA has written to all Australian operators of GA8 aircraft advising them of the temporary suspension and reminding them of their obligation to comply with all applicable GA8 Airworthiness Directives issued by CASA.”

“CASA has also written to all national aviation authorities who have GA8 aircraft operating in their jurisdiction advising them that CASA has imposed a 15-day temporary operating suspension on these aircraft.”

The Australian regulator has been working closely Swedish authorities and EASA and has sent an airworthiness engineer to Sweden to observe the accident investigation and collect information.

GippsAero holds a production certificate issued by CASA to manufacture the GA8 and is subject to regular surveillance and safety checks by CASA.

The aircraft type was certified in 2000 by CASA for normal operations, which includes skydiving.