Australia Today

There Are Serious Fears over the Safety of Tigerair’s Planes

Tigerair's repairs have been compared to those of a home handyman.
Gavin Butler
Melbourne, AU
Image via Shutterstock

We’ve come to expect so little from Tigerair. Australia’s most-maligned airline is consistently disappointing us with its late departures, its cancelled flights and its overall shitty service. And you get what you pay for, sure. But it would be nice, wouldn’t it, if what we got was a plane that wasn’t in danger of disintegrating at literally any second?

Last month, Tiger grounded one of its Boeing 737s for three weeks after it was found that the aircraft was suffering from serious undetected faults. It had recently flown back to Australia after undergoing maintenance work in the Philippines. Upon its arrival in Melbourne, engineers discovered that the jet’s repairs had been completely botched.

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A modification to the plane’s cargo bay smoke evacuation system was installed so badly that Steve Purvinas, federal secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, compared it to the work of a “home handyman”, Fairfax reports. There were parts that had not been secured properly and wires that had been plugged into the wrong terminals, forcing Tiger to cancel a handful of flights while they performed extensive repair work and testing on the aircraft.

Then, before the plane’s first flight back on August 22, the crew discovered that one of the flight attendants’ seatbelts wasn’t bolted to the seat properly. Just a seatbelt, on a transnational jet aircraft, not bolted down.

"What concerns us most is other latent defects, hidden now, but waiting to resurface at 30,000 feet," said Steve, ominously. "They didn’t know about the seatbelts—what else don’t they know?"

The shoddy maintenance work was done at Clark International Airport, near the Filipino city of Angeles, in a facility owned by Singapore Airlines. While Tigerair’s since stopped sending its planes there, according to Flightglobal, its two other 737s have undergone repairs at the facility in just the last three months. Virgin Australia also recently ended their relationship with the facility, and Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has conducted three on-site audits there since 2014.

It’s not clear whether there was a Tiger engineer supervising the offshore repairs—but Neil Hansford, aviation analyst and consultant, stresses there if there was “he should lose his licence. “This is the sort of stuff that would cause CASA, if it had balls, to review the engineering approvals of the airline,” he said.