Bird puts plane out of service

AIR safety officers are examining a passenger plane grounded at Albury Airport when damage to its body was detected after a flight from Sydney.

The Virgin Australia turboprop ATR-72 has been grounded since landing on February 25, when the pilot on the Albury-bound leg reported a bird struck it.

The same 68-seater plane was involved in another incident five days earlier.

It encountered severe turbulence on a Canberra to Sydney flight, causing a cabin crew member to fall over and sustain serious injuries.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau yesterday confirmed it was investigating both incidents.

Investigators were at Albury Airport yesterday examining the plane.

They would also be interviewing cabin crew and maintenance personnel, and inspecting the plane’s recorder data.

The incidents are being treated as separate.

A Virgin Australia spokesman, Nathan Scholz, said there was no evidence linking the two matters.

Mr Scholz said that on February 20, the Sydney-bound flight struck turbulence that led to a crew member being injured and Virgin notified the bureau.

He said five days later the pilot reported a bird strike mid-flight and found damage to the outside of the aircraft upon landing to Albury.

The return flight was immediately cancelled.

“Guests were accommodated on other services with other carriers,” Mr Scholz said.

“Obviously that was disappointing and we apologise to our guests, but it’s important to put safety first.”

The plane will remain at Albury while the bureau finishes its investigations and repairs are made.

“That’s the appropriate course of action and we will work closely with (the bureau) as we share their focus,” Mr Scholz said.

“It hasn’t resulted in any cancellations but obviously we’re keen to have the investigation completed and the repairs finalised so we can return the aircraft to service.”

The bureau spokesman in Canberra said a preliminary report would be prepared within 30 days.

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