DENVER – Frontier Airlines is investigating why a plane flew with about 20 screws missing from an area near the front of the wing, Denver7 Investigates confirmed with officials Friday.
A passenger noticed the missing screws on a Frontier Airlines Airbus 319 from Trenton, N.J., to Punta Gorda, Fla., on January 5 and notified the captain.
The aircraft was grounded by the company until the fasteners were received and installed, FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer told Denver7 Investigates.
Frontier spokesman Jim Faulkner said the issue was not severe and the plane returned to service that same day.
“The panel remained sealed and secured at all times, and at no time was safety compromised,” Faulkner said. “Frontier voluntarily disclosed this information to the FAA upon learning of the missing fasteners and has been coordinating with the FAA to determine what happened.”
The screws were missing from a section where the front slats meet the fixed part of the wing. Slats, like flaps, can be extended to create lift. Slats are often extended during landing to assist the plane in staying airborne when the speed of the plane is reduced.
Denver aviation expert Kevin Kuhlmann said the missing screws on this specific section of the plane are unlikely to cause problems in flight, but he says it would be important for an airline to uncover how this occurred. Kuhlmann is the associate chair of Aviation and Aerospace at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
“The concern is what safety measures were missed thus allowing this oversight and what unseen issues may occur in the future,” Kuhlmann said Friday.