Air Astana (KC, Nur-Sultan Nazarbayev) has sued Embraer (EMB, Sao Jose dos Campos) in New York for “in no event less than USD11,888,495, plus attorneys’ fees and costs,” accusing the manufacturer of forcing it to leave “a fleet of brand-new aircraft parked and empty on the ground because those planes were unsafe to fly,” court papers reveal.

Filed at New York County Supreme Court on July 2, the lawsuit accused Embraer of breaching “duties owed to Air Astana through a course of conduct that was (at best) grossly negligent and displayed a reckless indifference to human life,” putting the lives of “crews and passengers at risk.”

Embraer, the Kazakh flag carrier claimed, had “poorly designed and integrated key components and systems” that made the aircraft susceptible to inflight failures, “did not itself understand the interoperation of key systems,” and so “could not document remediation steps” when crews encountered problems.

Air Astana also alleged that Embraer did not disclose critical differences between new aircraft and predecessor versions of the same aircraft family, and denied the existence of, or delayed remediation of, “dangerously inadequate design, engineering, and documentation decisions.”

Embraer told ch-aviation that it “denies it has breached any obligations to Air Astana and will vigorously defend against all claims asserted.” It claimed that the airline had made a “unilateral decision to suspend aircraft operations” and has been “the only airline that suspended use of E2 aircraft, and they did so only temporarily.”

The manufacturer has a “reputation for going ‘above and beyond’ in service to its customers, and the company has already dedicated many resources to Air Astana. Nonetheless, Embraer looks forward to presenting its case in court,” it added.

According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, among a total fleet of 34 aircraft, Air Astana operates five E190-E2s, all of which are leased via AerCap and are currently inactive. The ch-aviation fleets ownership module shows that it previously operated nine ERJ 190-100ARs, phasing the last of these out in March 2020. The airline took delivery of its first E2 on December 2, 2018.

Air Astana listed a number of incidents whose danger was exacerbated by Kazakhstan’s “treacherous terrain and challenging weather” and by the fact that “it has only 19 airports that can accommodate large commercial aircraft and thus few and widely-spaced emergency landing options.”

The incidents included an anti-icing system failure on an E2 flying from Tashkent Islam Karimov to Almaty on June 22, 2019, necessitating an emergency landing in Shimkent, and a series of system failures following a false cabin smoke alert on a flight between Kyzylorda and Almaty on September 26, 2020, requiring another emergency landing.

On November 9, 2020, a crew flying an E2 from Aktau to Nur-Sultan Nazarbayev experienced a “cascading failure” of hydraulic systems during landing, uncommanded changes in altitude, and mechanical failures that resulted in missed approaches, the complaint also recounted.

Besides these incidents, Air Astana E2s have encountered other “multiple inflight anomalies indicative of mechanical or software-related flaws that further undermine” their airworthiness, the lawsuit claimed.