Australian carrier Jetstar under investigation

SYDNEY, July 9, 2011 (AFP) - Australia's aviation regulator said Saturday it had launched a review of maintenance at budget airline Jetstar, a Qantas offshoot, in the wake of another low-cost carrier being grounded.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) said it was examining databases and conducting checks at Jetstar after a records mix-up resulted in some planes missing routine inspections.

AFP - In this file picture taken 26 October 2007, a plane from Qantas airline budget carrier Jetstar (L) is shown taxiing past the air traffic control tower (R) at Sydney Airport.

The announcement follows the grounding of fellow budget airline Tiger Airways Australia until at least August 1 due to "serious and imminent" safety risks -- the first such ban of an entire carrier in Australian history.

Jetstar said it took four of its Airbus A320 jets out of service on Thursday for overdue works including "testing of batteries of emergency lights on board the aircraft, sampling of hydraulic fluid and the lubrication of door switches."

"We have robust safety and maintenance procedures in place. This is what helped us to identify some routine maintenance tasks (that needed completion) within specific time limits," a company spokesman told AFP.

The planes were serviced overnight and back in operation by Friday. There were "no safety implications."

"It should also be noted CASA did not order the grounding of any Jetstar aircraft," the spokesman added.

The CASA said Jetstar had immediately reported the issue and a review had been launched.

"We've had a detailed briefing from them on what happened and what they've done since. We certainly don't believe there were any immediate or serious safety issues," said Peter Gibson, a spokesman for the regulator.

"But we are reviewing what Jetstar have done and we will be looking carefully at their maintenance systems, particularly their maintenance control systems, to ensure that they are robust and are operating as we would expect."

Gibson said the missed inspections and procedures were "all lower-level issues" and denied there was cause for concern about safety across the budget flight industry.

"I don't think anybody's jumping to that conclusion," he said.

"The same safety standards apply whether you're a full-cost carrier or a low-cost carrier, we do the same types of audits, we do the same types of surveillance.

"Where airlines seek to lower costs and to deliver cheaper fares the one thing they can't do is cut corners on safety."

Gibson would not be drawn on whether Jetstar was facing penalties over the incident, saying only that CASA would take "any appropriate action if it's required".

Tiger, an Australian offshoot of the Singapore brand of the same name, has vowed to take all necessary steps to return to the skies and says it has a bright future, despite losing Aus$2 (US$2.15) million every week it is grounded.

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