More headaches for NCA as it gets slapped with a ‘Business Improvement Order’

NCA B747
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As Nippon Cargo Airlines (NCA), struggles to get its remaining nine of eleven B747Fs back in the air after, Japan’s transport ministry has slapped the carrier with a Business Improvement Order today for falsifying maintenance records with the company pledging to “reproduce company from ZERO”.

The carrier released a statement today saying Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MILT) has served it with a Business Improvement Order due to violations of Article104 Paragraph 1, Article 76 Paragraph 1, and Article 20 Paragaph 2, of Civil Aeronautics Law of Japan.

This refers to: “(a) inappropriate maintenance for the aircraft structure, (b) the report delay to the MLIT, and (c) organised manipulation and concealment of corresponding maintenance records,” the Japanese maindeck carrier said.

The ministry will withdraw an airworthiness certification that exempted Nippon Cargo from undergoing an inspection every year. The revelation of inappropriate data handling, which first surfaced in June (links to related stories: 1 and 2), initially led the company to ground all 11 of its B747F fleet. Since then NCA has re-activated two of those freighters following intensive procedural and aircraft checks.

The carrier repeated the apologies that it has been giving to its customers, saying today: “”We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience that we caused our customers as NCA was grounding all aircraft from 17 June through 4 July 2018 to confirm aircraft safety for above mentioned violations. While 2 aircrafts (JA18KZ and JA05KZ) started operation, most of our services are still suspended,” it said in a statement.

“NCA will unite and make every possible effort toward re-starting a safe operation with a feeling ‘reproduce company from ZERO’,” it said.

Among the false information the carrier reported according to the ministry, Nippon Cargo under-reported the amount of lubricating oil supplied to its aircraft. It also said that it had measured the depth of a dent on an aircraft caused by a lightning strike despite not having done so.

The data-doctoring was found following a ministry onsite inspection that was launched after it was found in May that damage to a Nippon Cargo aircraft caused in January 2017 and March 2018 actually required full-scale maintenance and amounted to an aviation accident under the ministry’s regulations.

Acknowledging that a warning from the ministry in October 2016 was ineffective in preventing “discrepancies” in its operations, NCA said: “We are re-evaluating our internal processes and controls since our analysis and preventive measures for the ‘Written Warning’ NCA received from the MLIT on 5 October, 2016 did not prevent these same types of discrepancies in our operation.”

The carrier also said it is utilising an unspecified “third party company” to assist it in “evaluating the root causes of our failure and examine preventive measures immediately, and report it to the MLIT by a date.”

NCA said all aircraft currently operating have been confirmed to be airworthy and safe with the remainder of the fleet undergoing the same inspection, and it will provide an update once it has more information.

“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience and worries that we caused our customers. We will do our utmost effort to conclude the safety checks for resuming the operation as quick as possible,” the carrier concluded.

Atlas Air has provided ad-hoc charters on top of the two aircraft that the group already operates on behalf of NCA under a long-term commitment. And for its part, Cargolux has said it will be providing assistance to NCA “wherever it can”, without providing specifics.

Cargolux and NCA signed an agreement in November 2017, taking effect from the Summer 2018 season, covering services from Luxembourg and Frankfurt Hahn to Tokyo Narita. Both carriers said at the time that they saw the agreement as a first step towards a deeper partnership.

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