Swiss vintage planes grounded after structural damage report

JU-Air offers sightseeing flights with vintage Ju-52 aircraft © KEYSTONE / WALTER BIERI

Swiss authorities have ordered the temporary grounding of two Junkers Ju-52 vintage airplanes operated by the Ju-Air company based near Zurich. Structural damage was discovered in the Ju-52 aircraft that crashed in Switzerland in August, killing all 20 onboard. 

This content was published on November 20, 2018 - 17:02
Keystone SDA/sb

In a statement on TuesdayExternal link, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (OFAC/BAZL) said an investigation by the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board (STSIB) of the wreckage of the fatal Ju-52 accident had revealed pre-existing structural damage to the aircraft’s main wing spar and to other parts of the plane, in the form of cracks and corrosion. 

It had not been possible to detect such damage during regular maintenance and inspections, OFAC said. But it insisted that there was presently no link between the damage found and the air accident in Switzerland on August 4. 

"There were no indications through the date of publication of this interim report that pre-existing technical defects would have caused the accident," the STSIB said.

On August 4, a 79-year-old Ju-52 operated by Ju-AirExternal link, flying from Locarno in canton Ticino to Dübendorf in canton Zurich, crashed at altitude in canton Graubünden in eastern Switzerland killing all 20 people on board - three Austrians and 17 Swiss. 

Following the fatal accident, no technical defects were identified on the three-engine plane. And on August 17, the Swiss aviation authority gave Ju-Air the green light to resume flights using its two remaining Ju-52 planes but insisted that several precautionary measures should be taken.

Despite not declaring any direct cause for the fatal crash, investigators have found structural damage and therefore are taking no chances. 

“As the two Junkers Ju-52s are more or less the same age as the aircraft that crashed and have flown for a similar number of hours, it must be ensured that they don’t have the same structural damage,” OFAC said.

The STSIB is not expected to complete its full investigation into the plane crash before the middle of 2019.

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