Scottish airline barred from direct US flights over poor maintenance

Scotland-based airline Flyglobespan has become the first British airline to have its licence for direct transatlantic flights using twin-engined planes suspended, following investigations by aviation safety authorities.

The airline will now have to re-route its United States flights via Iceland and/or Canada, and is not allowed to fly any direct route across the Atlantic, according to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The CAA announced on Thursday 18 October that it had suspended 'extended range twin operations' (ETOPS) approval for the airline's aircraft on Friday 12 October. ETOPS permits twin-engine aircraft to fly on routes, which take them more than one hour's flying time away from diversionary airports for landing in an emergency. The CAA said it was the first such move since the regulations were established in their present form 15 years ago.

The move will affect Flyglobespan's Boeing 737 and 757 aircraft. The decision followed investigations by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) into an aircraft servicing sub-contractor.

Flyglobespan said its Glasgow-Knock-Boston and Liverpool-Knock-Boston routes had been affected, and passengers could no longer fly direct on these routes. It said though, that reduced passenger numbers and favourable winds had enabled flights to stay on schedule despite the longer routes.

He said only about 12 flights would be affected before the firm's transatlantic flights stop operations for the winter later this month. The airline's other transatlantic routes, to Florida and Toronto, are not affected because they are operated by aircraft leased from Icelandair and Neos, which are not covered by the ETOPS move.

Flyglobespan has admitted "an unacceptably high level of technical problems" with its Icelandair planes, but stressed that this had not made the aircraft unreliable.