Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Vanilla Air delayed 2.5 hours due to nose wheel malfunction.

On the night of May 3rd, Vanilla Air (JW/VNL) flight JW806, service from Okinawa/Naha (OKA/ROAH) to Tokyo/Narita (NRT/RJAA), was delayed two hours and a half due to nose wheel steering problems with the Airbus A320 assigned for the flight.

The airframe involved was A320-211 JA8385, originally delivered to All Nippon Airways (NH/ANA) back on April 16th, 1991, and leased to the Narita-based LCC at the end of February by parent ANA Holdings. Carrying a load of 159 passengers (including three children), four flight attendants, and two cockpit crew, JW806 departed from the gate at Naha at 1904, local time. However, as it was taxiing to the runway, the nose wheel locked in the straight position and became unsteerable. After it was towed back to the terminal for maintenance and fix-up, the aircraft re-departed at 2004, an hour and 24 minutes behind its scheduled departure of 1840, and took off at 2125.

However, when the aircraft was approaching Narita, indicators displayed problems with its nose wheel again. The crew informed passengers about the technical issue and told everyone to brace for possible impact upon landing. Fortunately, JA8385 made a flawless landing on Runway 16L/34R (Runway B) at 2345 with no injuries, however, as its nose wheel could not be steered, the aircraft had to be towed to the terminal, where it arrived past midnight, over two hours and 30 minutes behind its published timetable. With all public transportation finished by this time, stranded passengers spent the night inside the terminal. Vanilla Air did not compensate for the delay in any way, following its policy. After a night's maintenance, the A320 returned to service the following morning.

This is not good publicity for the fledgling LCC, as it was also forced to cancel dozens of flights from the end of January (Vanilla Air Airbus A320 grounding forces cancellations.) due to the grounding of one of its A320s. Vanilla Air reported the problem to Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB), however, no investigations by the government regulator have been carried out as of now. The A320 has had its fair share of nose wheel steering issues, including when JetBlue Airways (B6/JBU) flight B6292 made an emergency landing at Los Angeles (LAX/KLAX) on September 21st, 2005 after the nose gear jammed in an abnormal position. 

Source: Aviation Wire, May 4th. (in Japanese)

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