Flybe chief executive says safety 'is top priority'

image source, Flybe

The new chief executive of Flybe has disputed that anything is "going wrong" for the airline, following six safety incidents in the past five weeks.

Christine Ourmiere-Widener said pilots were following procedures when a plane carried out an emergency landing at Edinburgh Airport on Tuesday evening.

That followed a crash landing last week of an aircraft flying from Edinburgh to Schiphol in the Netherlands.

Its landing gear had collapsed, and it skidded to a halt on one of its wings.

On the same day, a Flybe pilot had to shut down an engine mid-flight, just as another pilot did on 24 January.

image source, David Fleming
image captionPassengers on a Flybe flight from Edinburgh had to be evacuated after the plane's landing gear collapsed during touchdown in Amsterdam last week

Ms Ourmiere-Widener, who joined the airline in January, said: "Safety is our top priority. Our pilots have been following procedures and they have been trained to follow these procedures precisely."

Asked by the BBC what was going wrong for Flybe following the series of incidents, she replied: "I don't think we can say something is going wrong, and any conclusion will be difficult, because I think we have to work with all the authorities and with the investigation team, and our team working on the incident. We may draw a conclusion, but it's too early to say that."

Flybe has leased many of its planes from other airlines.

Asked if one of these deals had led to sub-standard aircraft, the chief executive said: "We are following all the procedures for airworthiness with the authorities.

"All the aircraft delivered have been following the rules and procedures defined by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority). There's no way that any measure that could compromise safety could be possible. Again, safety is our first priority."

image captionFlybe chief executive Christine Ourmiere-Widener said safety was the airline's "top priority"

During the interview with the BBC, the chief executive looked ahead to the launch of new routes for Flybe between Heathrow and both Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports.

This will use landing slots which were protected by competition regulators for the east of Scotland links with Heathrow, to ensure competition with British Airways after it took over BMI.

Virgin Atlantic sought to compete on the route, but could not attract the passenger numbers to make the finances work.

Ms Ourmiere-Widener said she believed her airline could be successful where Virgin had failed because it will be operating smaller aircraft, so it will have lower costs. She added that there would be "very competitive pricing".

Following the decision to end the franchise arrangement between Flybe and Loganair for operation of Highlands and Islands routes, the two companies are working on a new relationship, built on shared information technology developments.

The chief executive said she could not yet spell out the details of the different relationship after the franchise ends this August, but added that the partnership between Flybe and Loganair remained strong.

Loganair intends to continue running the lifeline air services in its own livery from September.

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