By Garth Calitz
One thing I have realised in my years of being involved in the aviation world is that people have very short memories. Most people have already forgotten the fate suffered by the Boeing 737 Max range of aircraft just a few short years ago and now happily climb aboard. The 737 range is now well on its way to retaining its title of most successful airliner ever built. Many of the most successful airliners of all time were grounded at some stage of their service for a varying period of time, these groundings are forgotten very quickly once the problem is investigated and rectified.
In 1946 the Lockheed Constellation was grounded, albeit only for a month, due to a fatal in-flight fire which resulted in an accident on TWA Flight 513 on 11 July 1946. Electrical wiring in the baggage compartment arced, starting a fire. The smoke and intense fire created made it impossible for the pilots to maintain control of the aircraft. Of the six crew members aboard, five were killed. The “Connie” was grounded from July 12 until August 23, 1946, when cargo fire detection equipment could be installed. Once the problem was solved the Constellation went on to be very successful and did its last passenger flight from Anchorage to Yakutat to Juneau on 26 November 1968.
Just a year later all Douglas DC-6s were grounded in their first year of service, the grounding following a series of inflight fires including the fatal crash of United Airlines Flight 608 on Oct 24, 1947. There were no survivors among the 5 crew members and 47 passengers on board. It was the first crash of a DC-6, and at the time it was the second deadliest air crash in the United States, surpassed by Eastern Air Lines Flight 605 by only one fatality.
The de Havilland DH 106 Comet was the world's first commercial jet airliner had its Airworthiness Certificate revoked for four years following two in-flight break-up accidents involving BOAC Flight 781 and South African Airways Flight 201. The improved Comet 2 and the prototype Comet 3 culminated in the redesigned Comet 4 series which debuted in 1958 and had a productive career of over 30 years. The Comet was also adapted for a variety of military roles such as VIP, medical and passenger transport, as well as surveillance. The most extensive modification resulted in a specialised maritime patrol variant, the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod, which remained in service with the Royal Air Force until 2011, over 60 years after the Comet's first flight.
The Yakovlev Yak-42, which first saw service in 1980 was grounded from 1982 to 1984 as a result of a design fault which caused the horizontal stabiliser screw jack mechanism to fail, the fault was rectified and the Yak 42 resumed service. As of July 2018, 23 Yak-42s remained in commercial airline service. Operators are Izhavia (10), KrasAvia (9), Black Sea Airlines (2) and Turuhan Aviacompany (2).
Airbus’ “Super Jumbo” the A380 has also had its fair share of problems, On 4 November 2010, an Airbus A380 suffered an uncontained engine failure shortly after take-off from Singapore Changi Airport and returned to Singapore to make an emergency landing. The failure was the first of its kind for the A380, the world's largest passenger aircraft. On inspection, it was found that a turbine disc in the aircraft's No. 2 Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine had disintegrated. In addition to the destruction of the engine, the damage was caused to the nacelle, wing, fuel system, landing gear, flight controls, and the controls for engine No. 1, and a fire in the left inner wing fuel tank that self-extinguished. The failure was determined to have been caused by the breaking of a stub oil pipe which had been manufactured improperly. All A380s using the Rolls Royce Trent motor were grounded until the engines were replaced. A decision was made by Airbus to stop producing the A380 just last month due to airlines' preference for more economical twin-engine wide-body aircraft.
In 2013, the first year of service for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, at least four aircraft suffered electrical system problems stemming from its lithium-ion batteries. Although problems are common within the first year of a new aircraft design's life, after a number of incidents including an electrical fire aboard an All Nippon Airways 787, and a similar fire found by maintenance workers on a landed Japan Airlines 787 at Boston's Logan International Airport, the United States Federal Aviation Administration ordered a review into the design and manufacture of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, following five incidents in five days involving the aircraft, mostly involved with problems with the batteries and electrical systems. This was followed by a full grounding of the entire Boeing 787 fleet Boeing announced that it was halting 787 deliveries until the battery problem was resolved. On December 13, 2018, the 787th Boeing 787 was delivered to AerCap, the largest 787 lessor. By then the 787 had flown 300 million passengers on 1.5 million flights and opened 210 new nonstop routes.
In February 2019 the European Aviation Safety Agency issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive that led to the grounding of specific Pratt & Whitney PW1100 GTF-powered A320neo/A321neo aircraft effective immediately. Once the defective components were identified and replaced the aircraft were returned to service.