Investigators to probe Qantas after three scares in 10 days

Safety officials have ordered a precautionary investigation into Qantas after three mid-air emergencies in the past ten days, including another incident at the weekend when a 767 bound for Manila had to return to Sydney after developing a hydraulics problem.Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority has said it has no evidence to suggest that standards at Qantas have dropped, but has ordered an immediate investigation as a precaution that will look at the airline’s maintenance systems and emergency procedures.

The review has been prompted by three mid-air dramas. The problems continued again this weekend when Qantas Boeing 767 bound for Manila had to return to Sydney after a problem developed with its hydraulics. Last Monday problems with landing gear forced a domestic flight to return to Adelaide. However the biggest emergency occurred on July 25 when an exploding oxygen cylinder ripped a large hole in the fuselage of a jet bound for Melbourne. It had to be diverted to the Philippines and all passengers and crew escaped unharmed.

Despite the recent emergencies, the Executive General Manager of Qantas Engineering, David Cox, said the airline has nothing to hide from investigators.
“We have no issue with this latest review and CASA says it has no evidence to suggest that safety standards at Qantas have fallen. We agree and are totally confident these checks will confirm the integrity of our engineering and maintenance operations and our commitment to safety.
Mr Cox said yesterday’s B767-300 air turn back was a routine and appropriate response to an issue with the aircraft’s hydraulic system.
“Qantas Group airlines operate more than 330,000 sectors each year, and issues that require an air turn back are extremely rare,” he said.
“In this case, the flight crew responded appropriately, emergency services were on standby at Sydney Airport as a precaution, there was absolutely no safety issue at any time and, after checks, the aircraft was back in service eight hours later.”

Although Australia’s national carrier has a good safety record its reputation has been tarnished over the past couple of weeks. Trade unions have insisted that the outsourcing of maintenance contracts overseas has affected standards, allegations that senior managers at Qantas have strongly rejected.

The review will be take place over the next two weeks.