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Nationwide Airlines

Nationwide Airlines was an airline based in Lanseria, South Africa. It operated scheduled domestic and international services. Its main base was OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg.[1] On April 29, 2008 the Airline halted operations.



The airline was founded in 1995 by Chief Executive Vernon Bricknell and began operating charter services within Africa for the United Nations and the World Food Programme, as well as ad hoc passenger and cargo charters. Domestic scheduled operations were started in December 1995 as Nationwide Airlines, which was one of four companies within the group consisting of Nationwide Air Charter, Nationwide Aircraft Maintenance and Nationwide Aircraft Support. In 2003 it inaugurated an intercontinental service with widebody aircraft. It is privately owned and has 800 employees (at March 2007).[1]

Nationwide planned to expand its international operations with flights to Munich and possibly Shanghai or Beijing. A second Boeing 767 was to enter service in November 2006, however Nationwide failed to secure the purchase. Aircraft that were also under consideration for the longhaul routes were the Boeing 747-400 and Boeing 777-200ER. In February 2005, the airline began updating its fleet by introducing its first Boeing 737-500 into service. It thus became the only operator of the -500 type in South Africa.[2]

In March 2008 the airline was awarded as the most punctual scheduled airline in 2007 between London and Johannesburg for the second consecutive year according to UK CAA statistics.[3]


Nationwide Airlines served the following destinations (at April 2008):

Incidents and accidents

November 7, 2007: A Nationwide Airlines Boeing 737-200 lost its right engine a few seconds after liftoff from Cape Town International Airport en route to OR Tambo International Airport.[4] Allegedly, a small pice of Foreign Object Debris (aka 'FOD') was ingested by the engine, causing a failure and vibrations that caused a pre-existing stress fracture in one of the engine retaining bolts to fail.[5] This retaining bolt failure put sufficient strain on the engine pylon that it completely detached from the wing(to prevent wing damage) while the pilots performed an emergency one engine climb. The engine fell onto the runway, causing the airport to close and various other aircraft to be diverted to George Airport. During the accident, the aircraft also lost most of its 'A' system hydraulic fluid (and a substantial quantity of fuel from the right wing tank) via the now severed connections between the fuel and hydraulic system and the right engine. This kind of separation, and severance of the lines had been anticipated by Boeing engineers, but due to the nature of the separation, the break in the lines occurred deeper into the wing than the pre-planned breaking point. Amongst other failures, this also degraded the wheel brakes, and the nose wheel steering would not function. The undercarriage would also not extend normally and had to be lowered manually. Back at Capetown, the detached engine remained to the east of the runway, and was only moved after an initial inspection by the accident investigators.[6] Captain Trevor Arnold and First Officer Daniel Perry were in command of this flight, numbered CE723. Daniel Perry was the pilot flying at the time of the accident. No-one was injured.


November 29, 2007: The existence of a pre-existing stress fracture in the engine retaining bolt (caused by mechanic error due to over tightening) led the South African Civil Aviation Authority to ground all Nationwide aircraft for non compliance with the applicable Civil Aviation regulations.[7][8] The airline had 30 days to either comply with the regulation or appeal.[9]

December 7, 2007: The CAA granted the 767-300 permission to fly on their Johanesburg to London route[10] The airline had planned to resume domestic flights the following week.

December 24, 2007: Nationwide aircraft had been granted permission to resume operations, but the airline had lost most of its holiday season passengers during the shut down and were operating with a reduced fleet size. According to Rodger Whittle, Nationwide's corporate quality director, the airline struggled to accommodate the remaining holiday season traffic and revenue were under stress.[11]

Halt of Operations

April 29, 2008 In January, Nationwide resumed operations and attained a gradual recovery of the business however in the months of March and April they faced a 30% increase in fuel costs coupled with a decrease in passenger load factors. Nationwide's already critical cash-flow meant operations were no longer sustainable without external, third party finance. An effort to sell 51% of the airline that Spring had failed, and as a result management decided to voluntarily cease all flight operations.

By May, 2008 liquidation proceedings were already in progress. December 2008 saw the first ever auction of Boeing aircraft in South Africa [12]

According to aviation industry analyst Iain McCreary of the consultancy Insight SRI,[13] this is the only known case of a Foreign Object Debris (FOD) strike forcing an airline into bankruptcy ("if not as the cause, then as a precipitating event")[14][15]


The Nationwide Airlines fleet consisted of the following aircraft (at April 2008):

Nationwide Fleet
Aircraft In Fleet Notes
Boeing 727-200 3 Used mostly for charter and regional work
Boeing 737-200 11 Used on primary domestic and regional routes
Boeing 737-500 2 Used on primary domestic and regional routes
Boeing 767-300ER 1 Used on Johannesburg-Gatwick route
Total 17


External links

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