Britain lifts flying suspension on Airbus-made Voyager fleet

LONDON Fri Feb 21, 2014 6:38pm GMT

An AirTanker Airbus Voyager aircraft prepares to land at a British base at Akrotiri, near the city of Limassol, in Cyprus August 29 2013. REUTERS/Yiannis Nisiotis

An AirTanker Airbus Voyager aircraft prepares to land at a British base at Akrotiri, near the city of Limassol, in Cyprus August 29 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Yiannis Nisiotis

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain has lifted a flying suspension on its fleet of six Airbus-made Voyager military aircraft, the operator of the aircraft and the Ministry of Defence said on Friday.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) said on February 12 that it had stopped flying its Voyager fleet after an "inflight issue" on February 9. Two sources told Reuters that the plane plummeted around 4,000 feet while flying over Turkey.

Britain is one of the biggest customers for the military Voyager jet supplied by the Airbus-led AirTanker consortium. It has ordered 14 of the converted A330-200 jets from AirTanker in a 14 billion pound leasing contract.

An AirTanker spokesman, who told Reuters that the suspension had been lifted, said an investigation was ongoing and he was unable to comment on the cause of the incident.

"We continue to give this investigation our full support and cooperation," he added.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it was inappropriate to speculate on the cause of the incident but, following critical safety advice, the RAF chain of command had been reassured that the likelihood of a repeat was negligible.

"Local training sorties have commenced, with European training sorties planned over the weekend," the MoD added.

The RAF grounding applied to six aircraft on the military register. A seventh aircraft in military service, which is on the civil register, continued to fly - as did the roughly 1,000 commercial Airbus A330s in service with airlines.

In 2008, several passengers were injured when an A330 operated by Australia's Qantas went into a sudden descent, but no connection has so far been identified with the RAF incident, people familiar with the matter said.

The AirTanker consortium includes Babcock, Cobham, Rolls-Royce and Thales.

Airbus declined to comment while the Ministry of Defence was not immediately available to comment.

(Editing by Costas Pitas and Elaine Hardcastle)

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