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Smartwings probed for continuing flight after engine failure

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PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech aviation watchdog said on Tuesday it was looking into an incident in which a Smartwings plane flew on one engine for more than two hours instead of seeking a nearby airport to land.

The Boeing 737 operated by the European Union airline was flying from Greece’s Samos island to the Czech capital Prague on Aug. 22 when its left engine stopped over the Aegean Sea.

The plane continued to Prague rather than landing at a closer airport.

“We are shocked, it is unprecedented in our view in terms of the crew behaviour, according to the information available so far,” said Vitezslav Hezky, spokesman for the Czech Aviation Authority (CAA).

A plane with an engine malfunction is supposed to land at the nearest suitable airport in accordance with instructions from Boeing, CAA said in a statement released on its website.

It said it would make “all effort to avoid the recurrence of a similar scenario.”

Smartwings said at the weekend that the crew had the flight under control and that they followed safety procedures.

An airline spokeswoman said on Tuesday the company was conducting an internal investigation into the flight and the crew response in line with regulations, and was ready to cooperate with the CAA.

Smartwings, which operates its own fleet and has also taken over the national carrier Czech Airlines, reported a profit of 81.3 million crowns ($3.51 million) in 2018.

It has faced losses from the grounding of the Boeing 737-800 MAX planes which make up part of its fleet.

Another Smartwings airplane was forced to make an emergency landing shortly after takeoff from Budapest on July 11 after its landing gear was damaged.

(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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