Malfunctions Are Natural After Heavy Summer Holiday Season, Say El Al Pilots

El Al pilots for one seem undismayed by reports of serial malfunctions in jet engines. "It would be no surprise if some engine or another failed. It is natural for there to be engine malfunctions at the end of the summer and holiday high season, after having flown so much," said an El Al pilot yesterday, who asked to remain anonymous. He referred to yesterday's TheMarker expose, which discussed the Civil Aviation Authority's (CAA) plans to investigate the cause of recent engine malfunctions in El Al planes. Were they due to a production defect, deficient maintenance or some other cause? The CAA's investigation, in cooperation with El Al, is focusing on malfunctions discovered in Rolls Royce engines installed in Boeing 777 passenger planes. The failures resulted in financial losses for El Al, and hampered service to flying customers.

In one incident, a plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Tashkent, Uzbekistan after the discovery of an oil leak. El Al passengers were hosted in hotels, while the company sent another plane to transport the passengers from Uzbekistan to Hong Kong, and back to Israel. The engine was sent to the manufacturer for testing.

El Al incurred substantial costs as a result of the malfunction, and service to passengers was disrupted despite the company's attempts to limit the damages.

According to the pilot, failures have also been discovered in other types of planes, such as Boeing 737s. "It makes sense. The engines have been worked hard during the summer months and holiday season. There were a lot of flights. It's natural that there would also be malfunctions," said the pilot.

The pilot dismissed the possibility that the engine was not properly maintained or checked by ground crews because of heavy flight traffic. He added that El Al pilots were trained well-enough to fly Boeing 777 planes with only one out of the two engines in operation, but were right to make stopovers or emergency landings, rather than continue the flights after an engine failed during the flight.

A second incident being investigated by the CAA involves a Rolls-Royce engine that El Al discovered had a cracked turbo. The Israeli airline contacted the engine's manufacturer to request instructions. The manufacturer replied that the engine could continue to be operated, but about a month ago it failed while the passenger plane was in the air. The craft was forced to make an emergency landing at Heathrow airport in London.