Nippon Cargo Airlines has temporary suspended aircraft operations of its entire fleet of 11 freighters over safety concerns, sending customers scuttling.
The suspension follows what the carrier said was the discovery of an “inappropriate maintenance record concerning the lubricating oil supply to the aircraft parts (for JA14 KZ) at Narita airport on April 3, 2018.”
The move is not a complete surprise as Japan’s transport ministry began last month looking into what it said was “negligence” in reporting serious damage to its aircraft on multiple occasions.
Nippon Cargo Airlines is known to have sustained significant damage to its B747 freighters in the US on at least two occasions – last year and earlier this year. NCA operates three B747-400Fs and eight B747-8Fs.
In one case, the all-cargo carrier did not submit a report to the Japanese government, and in another, gave false details, making the damage appear less serious than it actually was.
Both incidents involved bird strikes on NCA freighters – in January 2017 and March 2018, requiring what the Japanese transport ministry deemed to require major repairs.
The transport ministry inspected the company’s headquarters at Narita Airport in late May, checking maintenance and servicing records.
Japanese media quoted sources close to the firm as saying there were nine other cases in the last decade in which serious damage or defects were regarded as minor problems and went unreported.
The sources were quoted as saying that none of the aircraft were pulled from service, but some repairs which should have been made immediately were put off until regular maintenance.
With regards to the fleet-wide suspension, NCA said in a statement over the weekend: “In an abundance of caution and to ensure the safety of our operation, we decided to temporarily ground all aircraft until all maintenance records have been confirmed appropriate.”
The fleet-wide suspension took effect from 16 June 2018 (Japan time).
The carrier said investigations are underway with an expectation that it will take at least one week to confirm the fleet’s aircraft safety.
“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience and worries we caused our customers. We will do our utmost effort to check safety for resuming operation as quickly as possible.”
Nippon Cargo Airlines is Japan’s second-largest air cargo carrier, behind ANA Holdings’ unit All Nippon Airways (ANA). It operates nearly 60 flights weekly to and from Narita Airport, serving mainly hub cities in Asia, North America and Europe.