Six weeks after Aircalin returned one of its new Airbus A330-900s following complaints of a strong smell of oil in the cabin, the aircraft has been redelivered. The Airline now has two operational A330-900s, which will be used on routes including Noumea to Osaka.
Back in November Simple Flying reported on New Caledonian flag carrier, Aircalin, and its brand-new Airbus A330-900. Unfortunately for Aircalin, its brand-new Airbus A330-900 wasn’t in full working order when it was delivered on 1 October.
What happened to the aircraft?
Soon after entering service, crew started reporting a strong smell of oil in the aircraft’s cabin, even reporting headaches after flights. Aircalin subsequently returned the new Airbus A330-900, registered F-ONET, to Airbus on 29 October, for an investigation into the foul smell.
Now, a month and a half later, the aircraft has been returned to Aircalin, ready to return to commercial service. According to reports by CH Aviation, between 16-18 November the aircraft was flown back to Toulouse so it could be checked over by Airbus.
After Airbus sorted out whatever was causing the problems, F-ONET made its way back to New Caledonia. Flightradar24 data shows that the aircraft flew from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport to Kansai International Airport in Osaka on 17 and 18 December.
Presumably, the aircraft was flown back to Osaka so that it could operate the return leg of the Noumea to Osaka service.
What caused the smell?
Simple Flying has reached out to Aircalin for information regarding the source of the smell, but has not yet received any information from the airline.
Going on descriptions that describe an oil-like smell, it’s likely that the issue aboard Aircalin’s new Airbus A330-900 was a result of jet engine bleed air. A smell similar to burning oil, often described as ‘dirty socks’, is a pretty common occurrence on aircraft.
Jet engine bleed air can produce this smell when it comes into contact with hot oil in the engine. This isn’t usually possible but can happen as a result of faulty engine seals. Aircalin’s Airbus A330-900 was brand-new, but may well have had a faulty seal which caused the foul smell.
How did Aircalin cope without its new Airbus A330-900?
Aircalin is a small airline, with an active fleet of just seven aircraft. As a result, the loss of one of its two brand-new Airbus A330-900s will have been a significant blow. Luckily, it appears the airline was able to draft in one of its recently side-lined aircraft to cover the gap.
Aircalin deliberately kept one of its outgoing Airbus A330-200s on call while it got its new Airbus A330-900s up and running. It looks like this astute bit of forward planning allowed the airline to cope with the unexpected loss of 50% of its long-haul fleet for more than a month.
Hopefully, with the issue ironed out, the airline shouldn’t have any more problems with its new Airbus A330-900s before it takes delivery of its two new Airbus A320neos sometime in 2020.