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Wednesday 21 October 2009: The Virgin Blue Airlines Group said today the company complies fully with all manufacturer and safety regulator required maintenance checks and standards and has every confidence in the integrity of its maintenance program, procedures and the professionalism of its engineers.


The airline said it is seeking legal advice regarding the seriously inaccurate statements made by the Federal Secretary of the ALAEA Mr Steve Purvinas which come during good faith discussions with the union regarding a collective bargaining agreement.


“At all times the safety of our Guests and our Team members is our highest priority and we reject outright the sensational and mischievous attempt by Mr Purvinas to damage our reputation and cause unnecessary public concern,” Mr Darren Dunbier, Virgin Blue Manager of Aircraft Airworthiness and Maintenance Control said.


“Mr Purvinas statements that a wheel on a Virgin Blue 737-800 aircraft had disintegrated on landing this morning at Melbourne Airport are simply not true. His statement that Virgin Blue is preparing to do less regular maintenance checks is again simply not true.


The airline said, the facts are that the aircraft taxied in per standard procedures and during taxi the pilot identified additional drag on the aircraft, believing it to be a brake related issue. The aircraft did not lose a wheel or any other component. Upon arrival at the terminal engineers were advised of the reported condition and inspected the aircraft. The wheel and its brake were replaced and the aircraft returned to service.


“Upon inspection our engineers found that a component within the wheel hub of the Boeing 737-800 aircraft, had failed,” Mr Dunbier said.


“This is the first time this issue has occurred with any of our aircraft and we have been advised by the wheel supplier that it is a very rare occurrence. The Boeing 737 is widely acknowledged as one of the safest and most reliable aircraft in the world. Of approximately 2700 Boeing 737 Next Generation operating in the world today, there are
11 known instances of this part failing.


“The safety of crew and Guests onboard was never in question. This aircraft including aircraft landing gear are expertly designed with many back-up safety features including the ability to land safely if any wheel is rendered unserviceable which was the case this morning.”


Virgin Blue said the additional statement made by Mr Purvinas that the airline is planning to move to a programme of less engineering maintenance is again simply false.


“To be very clear and at our own initiative, we are making a CASA-approved change to our aircraft line check procedures which will deliver more frequent maintenance inspections of aircraft across our fleet,” Mr Dunbier added.


“Mr Purvinas should be well aware that Virgin Blue is increasing our maintenance schedule to a level which exceeds the manufacturer’s recommendations as well as meeting and in many cases exceeding all regulatory requirements and therefore we find his statements bewildering and misleading.”