By Brenda Goh and Tim Hepher
LONDON Feb 21 Britain has lifted a flying
suspension on its fleet of six Airbus-made Voyager
military aircraft, the operator of the aircraft and the Ministry
of Defence said on Friday.
The Royal Air Force (RAF) said on Feb. 12 that it had
stopped flying its Voyager fleet after an "inflight issue" on
Feb. 9. Two sources told Reuters that the plane plummeted around
4,000 feet while flying over Turkey.
Britain is one of the biggest customers for the military
Voyager jet supplied by the Airbus-led AirTanker consortium. It
has ordered 14 of the converted A330-200 jets from AirTanker in
a 14 billion pound ($23.3 billion) leasing contract.
An AirTanker spokesman, who told Reuters that the suspension
had been lifted, said an investigation was ongoing and he was
unable to comment on the cause of the incident.
"We continue to give this investigation our full support and
cooperation," he added.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it was inappropriate to
speculate on the cause of the incident but, following critical
safety advice, the RAF chain of command had been reassured that
the likelihood of a repeat was negligible.
"Local training sorties have commenced, with European
training sorties planned over the weekend," the MoD added.
The RAF grounding applied to six aircraft on the military
register. A seventh aircraft in military service, which is on
the civil register, continued to fly - as did the roughly 1,000
commercial Airbus A330s in service with airlines.
In 2008, several passengers were injured when an A330
operated by Australia's Qantas went into a sudden
descent, but no connection has so far been identified with the
RAF incident, people familiar with the matter said.
The AirTanker consortium includes Babcock, Cobham
, Rolls-Royce and Thales.
Airbus declined to comment while the Ministry of Defence was
not immediately available to comment.