Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dangerous QANTAS subsidiary

Cost cutting again. It's pretty bad when a Third-world country thinks you are too slack

SAFETY practices at Jetstar Pacific Airlines, the Vietnamese carrier part-owned by Qantas, have been found to be ''very poor and ineffective'' and defects hidden from supervisors, prompting the country's aviation regulator to demand senior management be removed.

The damning report by the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, obtained by Fairfax Media, also found Jetstar Pacific illegally sacked an Australian engineer - Bernard McCune - who tried to bring the problems to the attention of the airline's senior Australian managers.

Among the dangerous practices identified by the authority was the removal of a defective anti-icing pipe that, rather than being replaced, was welded and placed back in the aircraft by an unauthorised contractor. ''Technical staff did not report [this] occurrence on purpose,'' the report found, following an audit conducted in October.

Moreover, ''many mistakes and violations were covered up deliberately by JPA [Jetstar Pacific Airlines] from the supervision''. The authority added: ''Technical staffs record incorrectly the size of defects and twisting the fact of defect level.''

Amid deep cost-cutting at the airline, it concluded that there were not enough maintenance personnel and that the maintenance facilities were substandard.

The airline regulator laid the blame for the shortcomings squarely on the company's senior management. The ''quality assurance system operated very poorly and ineffectively, therefore [there have] been many violations occurred within the maintenance process. Managerial staff was actual causes and fully responsible for this system error.''

Jetstar Pacific was ordered to remove the airline's general director, Luong Hoai Nam, a Bulgarian technical quality manager, Atanas Stankov, and the Australian maintenance manager, David Andrew, from their posts.

Mr Nam is under arrest after resigning in November, while a Qantas spokesman, David Epstein, said yesterday that Mr Stankov was shifted from his position on December 25 and would formally leave the company next month. He said Mr Andrew was demoted on the same day for not properly reporting work practices, but only for three months.

The fate of Mr McCune and another engineer - Digger King, a New Zealander - who blew the whistle on the maintenance woes and lost their jobs remains unclear. Qantas has not offered to re-employ them or issued any kind of apology.

Mr McCune was sacked illegally, the report found. It added there was no evidence of wrongdoing to justify the terminations of either Mr McCune or Mr King.

Jetstar Pacific noted it was still able to fly its aircraft, saying the report ''focused on administrative and employment matters''. ''Jetstar Pacific remains confident of its engineering and safety record, and continues to work closely with the CAAV,'' it said.


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