A Loganair plane bound for Shetland was forced to make an emergency landing yesterday – just 24 hours after the airline’s reliability was questioned by Scottish ministers.
The aircraft was travelling from Glasgow to Sumburgh with 13 people on board when one of its engines was shut down by the pilot following a cautionary warning.
Emergency services were scrambled to Aberdeen International Airport at about 3pm, but the plane landed safely.
Loganair said the 10 passengers and three crew were transferred to another flight to complete their journey to Shetland.
However, the incident sparked fresh concern by northern isles politicians, with Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael claiming he had “never known the service to be as unreliable” as it has been recently.
The airline has faced a series of technical issues recently, with another two in the last week.
A plane was grounded at Stornoway because of a cracked propeller, and another was turned around mid-flight between Manchester and Inverness due to a problem.
And on Tuesday, Transport and Islands Minister Derek Mackay admitted at Holyrood that there was “certainly an issue around reliability” with the airline.
He added that the issue had “got worse” recently.
Last night Shetland MSP Tavish Scott revealed some of his constituents were so fed up with the “daily delays” that they had started using ferries instead of flying to reach the islands.
He said that he felt Loganair had to “beef up” its engineering support at airports to avoid delays due to technical problems, while describing yesterday’s emergency landing as “a serious incident”.
He added: “People are getting frustrated and they have not been seeing any signs of improvements.
“It’s natural for people to get worried”.
Mr Carmichael called on the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to closely monitor the airline.
He said: “In the many years that I have travelled with Loganair as a frequent passenger I have never known the service to be as unreliable and have as many incidents of this sort that we have seen recently.
“I know that the Civil Aviation Authority has been monitoring the practices and procedures at Loganair much more closely for some months now.
“They now need to explain to the public what they have been doing, what they have found and on what basis they continue to have confidence in Loganair.
“Without that transparency I fear that the trust of the public will be shaken.”
Yesterday’s landing caused an emergency situation to be declared at Aberdeen Airport.
Two fire crews were sent to the scene with other emergency services as the plane landed.
Pilot’s union Balpa raised concerns last month in an internal letter to the airline’s chief executive Stewart Adams complaining about planes “being returned to the line despite being unserviceable” and in some cases “aircraft retain defects that clearly affect flight safety”.
Last night, a Loganair spokesman said: “Flight BE6916 departed from Glasgow this afternoon heading for Sumburgh.
“Following a cautionary indication the captain elected to shutdown the aircraft’s right engine and diverted to Aberdeen airport.
“The aircraft, carrying 10 passengers and three crew, landed safely and was met by emergency services as is standard procedure.
“Customers disembarked the aircraft as normal and have since been transferred on to the evening flight to Sumburgh.”
Responding to the political concerns, Mr Adams said there had been issues with engineering staff leaving or retiring recently.
He said: “The process of training their replacements to work with the very specialised aircraft that fly on Loganair routes takes time, but we are now well into this process.
“As an example, 10 of these engineers have just completed a Saab course, and are now incorporated into our maintenance team.
“We will shortly initiate an apprentice scheme aimed at future-proofing us against the worldwide shortage of aviation engineers.”
He added that the company was undertaking a “complete review” of its service to ensure punctuality and reliability.
A spokesman for the CAA said: “Aviation safety is our top priority and we ensure all UK registered airlines meet strict European safety standards.
“We work closely with Loganair and all other UK airlines on a continual basis, to provide safety oversight and advice. We can confirm that Loganair meets these European safety requirements.”