The Grounding of SN
Brussels Aircraft Reg. No 00-SFM,
Flight No 463 at Kigali International Airport
SN Brussels aircrafts that
operate Rwanda route have been characterized by a series
of defects that raise safety concerns. This has led
Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority RCAA to pay particular
attention to their airworthiness. Some of the past incidences
that characterized SN aircrafts include:
- On 08/01/2005, aircraft Reg.
No. 00-SFM developed a fuel leak which took two days
- On 20/08/2005 a ramp inspection
was carried out on SN Aircraft Reg. No. 00-SFO. Some
of the findings of this inspection were lack of documents
like the license for senior cabin attendant and flight
operation manual (OM). Lack of an OM made it difficult
to know the crew duty time and other critical data
like cabin life rafts and radio license expiry dates.
- On 11/10/2005, SN aircraft
Reg. No. 00-SFM developed a fuel leak as it landed.
The problem was resolved by replacing a fuel filter.
It is against this background that
on 21/02/2006 at 20:00 Hours a ramp inspection was carried
out on SN aircraft Reg. No.00-SFM. A ramp inspection
is a routine activity stipulated in the convention on
International Civil Aviation, article 16 which states
that: “The appropriate authorities of each of
the contracting states shall have the right without
unreasonable delay, to search aircraft of the other
contracting states on landing or departure, and to inspect
the certificates and other documents prescribed by the
As a result of this inspection
a number of shortfalls were identified. They included:
- Lack of life span tags on both
the Captain and Observer seat belts. A life span tag
indicates an expiry date, which is a critical data
for seat belt. A seat belt, especially that of the
pilot, is considered as a no-go item since it can
jeopardise the safety of an entire aircraft if it
is not in good condition.
- Hydraulic leak traces on the
left inner slats. A hydraulic leak is a no-go item
since most of the control mechanism use hydraulic
systems and any leak could lead to control mechanism
- Lack of Airworthiness Directives
(ADs) Compliances. Some of the ADs are so critical
that they cannot be left ignored and yet the SN aircraft
was found to have not complied since August 2005.
leakage on the left engine. As long as the exact source
of the leakage is not known, it remains a hazardous
defect because some of the components are zero leak
These are the reasons that led
to the grounding of SN Brussels Aircraft at Kigali International
Airport. These findings were promptly communicated to
SN Brussels Company and to Belgium Civil Aviation Authority
(BCAA). There is nothing illegal or unacceptable in
what was done by Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority.
It is however revealing that the
Belgian authorities, without paying due attention to
these technical problems of SN Brussels aircraft, immediately
linked the grounding of this aircraft to that of Rwandan
Aircraft belonging to private company Silverback Cargo
Indeed since August 19, 2006, the
BCAA grounded a Rwandan Cargo Aircraft belonging to
SCF on baseless grounds. Reputable aircraft maintenance
companies like SABENA TECHNICS of Belgium and Priority
Aero Maintenance of Sweden can testify that Silverback
aircraft is compliant with all safety requirements.
Silverback aircrafts have been flying to Europe (UK,
Holland, Belgium) and to Middle and Far East of Asia
with no incident and are insured by the Lloyds of London,
a reputable insurance company known for its stringent
security and safety requirements.
Still BCAA has refused to release
the aircraft. Instead the Kingdom of Belgium has requested
the European Commission to ban Silverback Cargo Aircrafts
from flying into Europe. However, on its part the European
Commission before taking any decision as requested by
the Belgian Authorities, has invited Silverback to a
hearing in order to establish if there is any justification
to the Belgian request.
It should be noted that Rwandan
political authorities have so far treated the grounding
of this Rwandan aircraft as a technical issue and not
a political one, and have never made any contact whatsoever
with Belgian political authorities about the issue.
The Government of Rwanda finds
that the routine inspection of SN Brussels aircraft
that resulted into its grounding has been given undue
publicity with political overtones on the part of the
SN Brussels management and Belgian Government authorities.
Done at Kigali, on 25 February