Friday, January 27, 2012

It's all clear now

I am closing this blog because it has become clear what was going on at Qantas: The constant equipment failures on Qantas planes were deliberate sabotage by Qantas maintenance staff. The union knew that the work they do was gradually going overseas and that they were all in danger of losing their jobs so in their addled way they thought that their constant undermining of Qantas reliability would lead Qantas to come to terms with them and give them "job security" -- i.e. guarantee no more transfer of maintenance work overseas.

When Mr Joyce grounded the fleet, however, it became clear to them that they were dealing with a man who was not going to buckle and who would weather the storm of taking ALL their work away.

So what happened? The constant maintenance problems Qantas was having suddenly ceased. From that time to this Qantas has not had to turn back a single flight due to equipment malfunction. It is that sudden large change which speaks louder than words in revealing what was going on. The unions realized that the equipment malfunctions were a good reason to give them all the boot so have stopped their constant sabotage.

Further evidence that the union concerned is now shit-scared for their jobs is the fact that they were first to reach a settlement with Qantas under the Fair Work Australia negotiating process. They went from being the most militant union to being the tamest. And they settled despite Qantas refusing them one of their major demands: Bring the A380 maintenance to Australia.

These are totally despicable people who repeatedly risked the lives of Qantas passsengers with their sabotage. I think Qantas should still fire the lot of them and have all Qantas maintenance done in Germany.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A380 cracks: check fleets now, say engineers

Plane makers in damage-control mode: Publicity damage, not aircraft damage

Aircraft engineers have called for Airbus and airlines including Qantas to inspect their fleets of A380s as a matter of priority after tiny cracks were discovered in the wings of five superjumbos worldwide.

Airbus has given assurances that its flagship A380 aircraft – the largest passenger jets in the world – are safe to fly and will be issuing a service bulletin to airlines this month requiring them to check for the problem when their superjumbos are due for heavy maintenance every four years.

But the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association said today that it wanted airlines and the European plane maker to conduct inspections for cracks in the wing-rib attachments as soon as possible. "There is no way on God's earth that I would be waiting four years to inspect them," Paul Cousins, the federal president of the engineers' union, said today.

"At the moment it seems that a Band-Aid fix has been applied too quickly to a situation that could become very serious. "This is a large aircraft carrying 520 people across the fleets in the world – we need to be absolutely sure it is flying safely."

Mr Cousins said he was concerned that the failure of one of the rib attachments would put added pressure on others within the wing. "Our concern is a continuing stress on the wing. In this case, Airbus and the European Aviation Safety Agency have been too quick to come out with a fix, rather than saying we need to investigate this further," he said. "It increases the chances that we are going to have a serious problem."

Qantas said the cracks found in one of its A380s under extensive repair in Singapore did not present a risk to flight safety and it was awaiting a service bulletin from Airbus advising of the steps it needed to take. "It is an Airbus aircraft. They are the experts and we will take their advice," a spokesman said today.

Airbus has confirmed that the cracks were found in various parts in the feet of the wing-rib attachments of five superjumbos – one belonging to Qantas, two to Singapore Airlines, one to Emirates and one of Airbus's development aircraft.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jetstar cadet scheme under scrutiny

AUSTRALIA'S aviation safety watchdog has now put Jetstar under intensified scrutiny for its cadet pilot training scheme after another botched landing attempt.

The latest bungled landing occurred at Cairns airport on a flight from Sydney on November 3, when a cadet pilot selected the wrong flap settings, the airline confirmed.

When the captain, who was flying the Airbus A320, realised his cadet co-pilot had selected the wrong flap setting, he called for the landing to be aborted.

But the cadet compounded his mistake by choosing a wrong flap setting for a second time, upsetting the aerodynamics of the airliner for eight seconds.

Fortunately for all on board, the plane was at 1900 feet and the captain had time to recover the situation.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority yesterday shifted its vigilance up a notch. "There is now ongoing monitoring by CASA of the Jetstar cadet scheme to ensure it continues to meet the required standards," the agency said. "If circumstances change, CASA will take appropriate steps to ensure relevant safety standards continue to be met."

The Age believes substantial effort in the safety authority is now focused on Jetstar's operations, and the agency is prepared to act on the airline if necessary.

Jetstar's chief pilot, Captain Mark Rindfleish, said the crew "followed standard practice and discontinued an approach into Cairns after detecting incorrect flap settings". "Anyone at the controls of a Jetstar aircraft has the qualifications and skills to be there," he said.

But the incident has sparked more calls for an urgent investigation of the airline's fast-tracked pilot training scheme.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon, who initiated this year's Senate inquiry on pilot training and airline safety, called on CASA to launch an urgent investigation of the Melbourne and Cairns incidents.

"Two separate incidents just a few months apart would indicate that this needs to be investigated thoroughly," he said. "I've been approached by a number of Jetstar captains that have expressed concerns about the level of training of some of the cadets. "I'll be moving in the Senate, when Parliament resumes, for the inquiry to reconvene about these more recent incidents, to call CASA, the ATSB [Australian Transport Safety Bureau] and the Qantas group in relation to this."

The president of the Australian and International Pilots Association, Barry Jackson, said: "When events occur on a regular basis then there's an issue.

"They grounded Tiger for these sort of things. It seems to me to be continuing events that point to pilot training and inexperience. "CASA's the one that needs to look seriously at these events."

Mr Jackson said experienced first officers were baling out of [Jetstar's parent] Qantas to be snapped up by the likes of Emirates and Qatar airlines, at a rate of one resignation every two days, leading to the recruitment of inexperienced pilots.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau was notified but it chose not to investigate the Cairns incident formally, after it was satisfied that cockpit alarms were not triggered and that the plane was still at a safe altitude.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jetstar pilots sent back to school after flying too low on approach

This is the first Qantas/Jetstar incident for a while -- and it was NOT due to poor maintenance, unlike most previous incidents. Marvellous how the maintenance has improved now that the airline's boss has made it clear that he is prepared to shut down the airline. That the previous incidents were deliberate sabotage by unionized maintenance personnel certainly suggests itself in the circumstances

TWO Jetstar pilots have been ordered into remedial training after a misunderstanding between them caused their Airbus A320 to descend within 51m of the ground well short of Melbourne Airport.

It took two warning signals from the aircraft's safety systems before the Captain and the First Officer, who was at the controls, realised they were far too low on approach and the Captain aborted the landing, the Herald Sun reported.

Both pilots thought the other was responsible for looking after the altitude, sparking major concern from Jetstar.

The July 28 incident, similar to several instances which led to Tiger Airways being grounded, is being taken so seriously by Jetstar that it will become a case study in its pilot courses.

It happened as the Airbus A320 was making its final approach.

The official report said the First Officer was concentrating on the aircraft's runway alignment and its positioning for landing, relying on the Captain for decision making and awareness of the height. However the Captain was unaware of that.

The Captain realised they were too low at 245 feet (75m), and the plane dipped as low at 166ft (51m) before the pilots were able to increase altitude.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Engine drama strikes another Qantas A-380

It's impossible not to suspect rogue unionists behind at least some of these troubles

A YEAR to the day that a mid-air explosion forced a Qantas flight carrying 459 passengers to make an emergency landing, the airline suffered another A-380 PR disaster.

A Qantas A-380 flight bound for London was diverted to Dubai after suffering engine trouble.

Pilots on QF31 from Singapore to London were forced to shut down the number four engine about 90 minutes after take-off. It landed safely in Dubai and all 258 passengers onboard are safe.

Actor and comedian Stephen Fry, who flew out of Sydney yesterday after a national live tour of his TV show QI, was among those onboard.

He tweeted his annoyance soon after landing: "Bugger. Forced to land in Dubai. An engine has decided not to play."

Qantas said the plane is not the same A-380 that made an emergency landing in Singapore on November 4 last year.

An explosion tore through that aircraft's second engine shortly after take-off and rained debris on a shopping centre in the downtown area of the Indonesian island of Batam.

A spokeswoman for the airline said the timing of the incident was unfortunate.

“It’s definitely unfortunate that this occurred on the same day as QF32 and after the industrial action,” she said.

There are currently ten A-380s in the Qantas fleet.

Qantas said the jet had not had any other engine problems.

The mid-air drama came as Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was grilled by senators over his handling of the airline's industrial dispute, which has at its heart the safety and maintenance of Qantas planes.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jetstar credit card blues

A recent online dalliance with Jetstar got off to a promising start. Looking to book two adults and two kids on a Sydney-Avalon return flight, it was pleasing to see they had fixed the issue of baggage selection. Previously, it was one-in, all-in for checked baggage. Now, you can deselect baggage from passengers. Second, it looked like we would need to buy the $17 a person "optional value bundle" to ensure we all sat together. A 15-minute call to the helpline (14 minutes waiting, 60 seconds talking) allayed that fear - families automatically get seated together.

Inevitably, it couldn't all go the customer's way, however. Working our way to the final page of the booking (payment), when you're about to hit the process payment key, a line appears stating you'll be charged $60 for the privilege of paying by credit card.

An extra 8 per cent on top of the fares.

I appreciate that customers have the direct-debit option online but it really is taking the mickey when the majority pay this way for all online purchases (and no, I don't want to sign up for a Jetstar credit card).

- Daniel Happell


Friday, October 21, 2011

More trouble midair for Qantas

Some Qantas passengers are angry after a plane with 115 passengers heading to Alice Springs returned to Darwin due to a mid-air malfunction.

Passengers on flight QF1935 who spoke to AAP described a grinding noise and the sound of rushing air about 10 minutes after take-off, before an announcement that there was a problem with the cargo door.

The flight, which left Darwin at 7.25am (CST), turned around and circled the airport for about an hour to burn off enough fuel to land safely.

Chirag Patel from Alice Springs said he never wanted to fly with Qantas again, but had little choice as he was already booked in to fly to Mumbai with the airline on Saturday. "I do not like to fly with Qantas, the safest airline in the world once upon a time," he said at Darwin Airport.

Another man who did not wish to be named described what happened as a "debacle". "I wouldn't mind asking why CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) shut down Tiger (Airways) but Qantas is having incident after incident and they are still flying," he said.

Several Northern Territory politicians who were heading home after state parliament finished sitting for the week were also on board.

Robyn Lambley from the Country Liberal Party said she heard a strange sound soon after take-off. "It sounded like a faulty engine almost, and I looked across and said `this doesn't sound good'," she said. "Soon after that the pilot came on the speaker and said there was a problem with the door to the luggage container."

She said one passenger had what appeared to be a panic attack and paramedics came on board after they landed and give them oxygen. Ms Lambley praised the work of Qantas staff who she said were reassuring during the incident.

The plane was met by fire authorities when it landed as a precaution.

Tourist David Williamson said he was disappointed that something as important as a cargo door fault had apparently slipped through maintenance checks.

Another man seemed more concerned with his thirst as he waited for Qantas to find a replacement plane. He berated Qantas staff because an airport bar had not been opened early while the passengers were waiting. "A man's not a bloody camel," he was overheard telling one staff member.

A Qantas spokeswoman said a hydraulic fault caused the incident. "There is no safety risk whatsoever ... it is a mechanical issue," she said.

Recently Qantas announced a cut in flight numbers because union action was causing a backlog in the maintenance of its fleet.

The airline said the problem with its plane that turned around was unrelated to the industrial action.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Qantas flight forced down on Lord Howe Island after engine failure

A QANTAS plane has made an emergency landing on Lord Howe Island following engine failure, an airline spokeswoman says.

The Qantas spokeswoman said flight QF2260 from Sydney to Lord Howe Island experienced an "oil pressure issue'' with one of its engines. "The engine was shut down in line with standard operating procedure and the aircraft landed at Lord Howe Island without incident a short time later.''

There were 23 passengers on the plane at the time, Qantas said.

Engineers were being flown to Lord Howe Island, in the Tasman Sea, to assess the aircraft, she said. There were no injuries and passengers had disembarked she said.

A spokeswoman for the Lord Howe Island Board said passengers had checked into hotels and resorts across the island.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Mother furious after Qantas loses unaccompanied son in Hobart Airport

QANTAS has fessed up to losing track of an unaccompanied 11-year-old boy and even misplacing the paperwork involving his flight to Hobart.

Fairfax Media says when the boy arrived at Hobart Airport on his own late at night on September 28 he was forced to wander around on his own looking for his mother.

Qantas says the incident happened during a particularly busy night when the arrivals hall of Hobart Airport was in turmoil because storms in Melbourne had caused flight delays, passenger disruption and lost baggage.

The boy, who had been dropped off at Melbourne Airport by his uncle and passed into the care of Qantas cabin crew, told his mother, Leanne Decleva, that he didn't know why he was on his own after landing in Hobart. "Anyone could have come along and just creamed him up in a couple of seconds," said Ms Decleva, a child protection worker.

She marched him back to the Qantas counter to find out what had happened and was told they had no paperwork to sign for his collection and did not know who was authorised to pick him up.

"I've shown my licence as ID and they just (said) take him," Ms Decleva said. "But there could have been a custody battle in train and I may have been prevented from having any contact with him. "Working in child protection, I know all this stuff, because it happens all the time."

She has declined the airline's offer of a $1000 travel voucher and is considering her legal options.

A Sydney-bound Qantas flight has turned back to Bangkok with engine problems

A SYDNEY-bound Qantas flight has been forced to turn back to Bangkok with engine problems after a bang on board the plane, the airline says.

The Boeing 747 turned back one hour into the Bangkok-Sydney Q52 flight about 9.30pm (AEDT) yesterday after there was a bang and the plane vibrated, a Qantas spokesman told AAP. "About one hour after take-off, there was a bang and some vibrations were felt through the aircraft," he said. The pilot turned off one of the four engines as a safety precaution and the plane, carrying 356 passengers, landed safely back at Bangkok airport at 10.47pm (AEDT).

No emergency landing was required and all passengers were being accommodated on other services, the spokesman said.

One passenger reported seeing sparks shooting out of the engine, Macquarie Radio reported. "There was some white sparks shooting out of the engine and then they informed us of what was going on, that the engine had been shut down and we were returning to Bangkok," a passenger known only as David said.

It comes as an estimated 60,000 Qantas passengers have been affected by a series of rolling strikes by engineers and ground crews. The airline last week cancelled 400 domestic flights over the next month, blaming the disruptions on engineers' strikes.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Here we go again

There has been a bit of a lull in these incidents so I was hoping Qantas had got their act together

A QANTAS plane enroute to Perth was forced into an emergency landing in Newman after engine problems today. Passengers reported hearing a loud bang after an engine stalled on the flight from Newman to Perth about five minutes into the journey. The plane was carrying 75 passengers and five crew members.

A Qantas spokesperson said the plane was turned back because of an “adverse engine indicator for the aircraft’s right engine”.

One passenger told Nine News he was sitting at the back of the plane and heard a “bang” noise about five minutes into the flight. “They didn’t tell us [for] ages, they said we’ll turn it back for … an emergency landing,” he said.

Another passenger flying to Perth for a holiday also said she heard a loud bang. “The plane went like dead silent for about three minutes, and we hadn’t been told anything,” she said. “We were just sitting there and then the lights down the middle started going on and off. “We were just left there not knowing what was happening.”

A Perth man on the plane said the plane “dropped” mid-air after the loud noise. He said they eventually got to Perth three hours after returning to Newman.

Passenger Jeff Worthington told Nine News the scariest part of the flight was the landing. “It hit the ground that hard, and then it was just all over the runway,” he said.


Friday, September 30, 2011

More claims Jetstar is exploiting staff

A former cabin attendant with Qantas's budget carrier Jetstar Airlines says flight safety is being endangered by some crew being forced to work extremely long shifts.

Former Jetstar employee Dallas Finn said he quit his job after two months because of concerns about safety and fatigue.

"I told them they had safety issues with the airline and it should be addressed," Mr Finn told ABC TV yesterday.

Based in Darwin, Mr Finn become a Jetstar flight attendant in June but quit two months later. He said he had filed an incident report about fatigue after flying five return international flights in five days, which had affected his sleep "drastically".

"The Ho Chi Minh flight is between a 12 and 13-hour day," he said. "They would actually change the pilots over in Ho Chi Minh but the cabin crew would have to fly back."

Mr Finn said his safety concerns arose after a pre-flight briefing at which the Singapore-based crew were unable to answer the emergency procedure and the medical question.

"It was the first time I've actually been scared of flying because if something went down I didn't actually know if that crew would be able to back me up," he said.

Jetstar said it investigated concerns about the skills of a crew member on a Melbourne-to-Darwin flight on July 17. "It was determined that the crew member satisfied proficiency requirements," the airline said in a statement.

The contract for Jetstar's Singapore-based flight attendants states that crew could work shifts for up to 20 hours but staff could be forced beyond that limit without consultation, the ABC said.

The supplier of cabin crew for Jetstar out of Singapore was Valuair, of which Qantas owned a 49 per cent share through Jetstar Asia.

A Singapore-based Jetstar cabin attendant said they had to accede to management's requests, even if they exceeded the conditions of their work contracts.

"If we complain about fatigue or long hours or bad flight rosters, the management's reply is, 'You signed a legal contract, so you have to do whatever that is'," the attendant told ABC TV.

But Jetstar said the airline did not roster 20-hour shifts. "The longest rostered shift is 15 hours and 20 minutes," it said. The carrier said the average rostered international cabin crew shift was about 10 to 11 hours.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Left without a crutch

As someone with a permanent disability, the treatment I received from Qantas security officers at Brisbane Airport recently was shocking. After passing though security, my crutch was taken from me and no other aid was made available. I was told to lean against a post because security needed to screen the crutch again. I had to stand unaided for a screening of my body, despite the fact I had told two of the officers I had a broken femur and a hip replacement.

- Rosemary Ross


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fast downgrade, slow refund

My loyalty to Qantas has waned in the past few years because of indifferent customer service but the piece de resistance was waiting more than two months for a refund after a Qantas flight downgrade that was made to accommodate its staff on a flight from Sydney to Auckland.

This downgrade was advised only as we drove to the airport but we were assured a refund would be processed quickly. If we can book flights online and have credit cards debited instantly, why does it take so long to receive a refund?

- Mary Maloney