A Virgin Australia ATR 72 was operated on 13 sectors after an inflight incident on Feb. 20, 2014, created an “overstress condition” that left it unairworthy.
The aircraft was pulled out of service on Feb. 25 for precautionary reasons following a possible bird strike. A visual inspection of the tail found significant damage that had nothing to do with birds. ATR described the damage as “broken carbon plies, cracked joint sealant and deformation” where the horizontal and vertical stabilizers meet, and stabilizers and elevators needed to be replaced. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau continues to investigate the incident, including how inspections immediately after the Feb. 20 flight did not detect the damage. Two interim updates on the incident have shed little light on what happened.