Czech army grounds L-39 jets after accident probe

The Czech army has grounded all of its L-39 Albatros light jets after an investigation found an engine fire at fault for an accident

Chris Johnstone | 01.06.2011
The problem may be linked to a dispute between LOM Praha and the Ukrainian engine maker

The Czech army has ordered the grounding of its nine jet trainer and combat aircraft, the L-39 Albatros, following an accident investigation into a engine failure that forced the pilot to eject in December 2010. Five of the planes will be immediately removed from service and a further four only used for training young pilots — after thorough overhauls of the engines.

The accident investigation found that the engine failure was caused by a titanium fire in the high-pressure compression section of the motor. The army said in a statement that another factor in the accident could be the running battle between state aircraft maintenance company LOM Praha and the Ukrainian producer of the engine, which meant that not all engines had been checked to deal with the cause of the titanium fire.

The L-39 Albatros light jet aircraft and trainer was developed under the former communist regime of Czechoslovakia with serial production starting in 1971. The engine was supplied by the then Soviet Union. The aircraft was widely sold throughout the Third World thanks to its versatility and is still widely used.

The aircraft was widely sold throughout the Third World thanks to its versatility and is still widely used; according to some reports, there are around 2,800 planes in service with air forces around the world as well as planes owned as cheap private jets.

A spokesman for the Czech Army said it did not know it the engine problem was a specific problem that affected it or was wider. Production of the plane by the Czech Republic’s biggest aircraft company, Aero Vodochody, ended in 1999. Aero spokesman Richard Musil told Czech Position that the problem was connected with maintenance of the Czech army jets and did not go further. “At this stage it has nothing to do with us,” he added.

The plane has appeared in several films, most famously being used in the James Bond adventure “Tomorrow Never Dies.” 

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