Key Points:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration confirms that recent inspections are focused on potential fatigue cracking in specific airframe brackets of the Airbus A320 family jets.

  • In 2018, the FAA addressed the fatigue cracks concern, specifically in the fasteners and pressure panels of these jets.

  • Spirit Airlines had to cancel about 11% of its flights on 20 October to accommodate these mandatory inspections, and it's still uncertain when the affected planes will resume service.

Spirit Airlines grounds 25 Airbus A320 jets due to fatigue concerns

Spirit Airlines' Preventive Maintenance Grounding

Recent inspections prompted the grounding of 25 Airbus A320-family jets operated by Spirit Airlines, leading to multiple flight cancellations across their service routes. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has revealed that these inspections primarily aim to check for potential fatigue cracking in a specific bracket on the aircraft's airframe.

Looking Back: FAA's 2018 Directive

Although the FAA has provided limited details on the current inspections, it pointed to a 2018 airworthiness directive that offers more insight. The directive in question was a response to fatigue tests that detected cracks around fasteners and pressure panels. Additionally, cracks were found under longitudinal beams at locations not previously included in the inspection protocol.

Affected Aircraft and Operational Impact

The current issue predominantly affects the first-generation Airbus A320 family jets, sparing the newer A320neo models. Consequently, Spirit Airlines had to cancel roughly 100 flights, or 11% of its total scheduled flights, on 20 October to facilitate these imperative inspections, which involved both A319s and A320s. The airline stated, "The impact on our network is anticipated to span several days as we undergo inspections and aim to resume regular operations." As for when the grounded jets will take to the skies again, Spirit has not provided any further updates.

FAA's Monitoring and Assurance

On 23 October, the FAA acknowledged being informed about Spirit Airlines' decision to temporarily remove about 25 Airbus planes from service for the mandated maintenance check. The aviation authority emphasized its intent to closely monitor the situation and will ensure all concerns are addressed before the planes return to service.

Spirit's Fleet and Future Communications

According to data, Spirit Airlines operates a significant fleet, including 137 A320s, 38 A321s, and 19 A319s. Additionally, 10 of their jets are currently listed as in storage. While the airline plans to announce its quarterly results on 26 October, it has notified the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it will not be hosting the customary earnings call.

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