Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Qantas flight forced to dump fuel, land after witnesses claim flame came from engine

This is the second time recently that an engine has been observed to be on fire, only to have the Qantas spinmeisters dismiss it as a "few sparks". Why they think that lies improve their credibility is a mystery

A PASSENGER on board a Singapore-bound Qantas flight that was forced to return to Sydney Airport last night has told of fire coming from the plane. Nicola Wall told Channel Nine News today that she looked out of her window to see "flames coming out from under the wing".

A witness, Jack Martin, who was surfing when he saw the plane, said he heard a "big bang". "I looked up and saw a big Qantas plane flying and its right engine was on fire," he told Channel Nine.

Another witness, Steve, said he also spotted flames coming from the engine as he was driving from Kurnell to Cronulla. "I pulled up and watched and as it headed out to sea the flames were coming out of the engine, and ... it just flew off into the clouds," he told Macquarie Radio last night.

Ms Wall said the experience was made worse by flight attendants and the captain who did not immediately tell passengers what was happening.

Qantas could not confirm the reports, but last night said the situation was not an emergency. "We have a technical issue identified with the aircraft, we believe it is impacting one of the engines," spokeswoman Christie McSweeney said.

"It was not in an emergency at any stage. "There was likely to have been some sparks and flint, but nothing we would describe as flames and fire."

A pilot discovered the issue in the third engine soon after the near-full QF5 jumbo left Sydney at 5.10pm (AEDT), the airline said. The aircraft, which was over the sea at the time, was turned back, dumping fuel on the way to meet landing requirements.

It landed safely about 6.15pm (AEDT). The 414 passengers were removed after engineers assessed the problem and found it could not be repaired within a reasonable time-frame, a spokeswoman said. After a four-hour wait, the passengers were transferred to another aircraft, which left Sydney for Singapore at about 9pm (AEDT).

The plane is being further assessed by engineers, Qantas said.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Qantas bosses accused of safety breach

I am posting this as part of my record of complaints about Qantas but I think that this is just nitpicking by disgruntled unionists. Prima Donna unionists are probably behind some of the Qantas maintenance problems

QANTAS engineers have called on the air safety regulator to investigate the airline for safety breaches allegedly committed by managers during a long-running industrial dispute.

The Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia claims Qantas managers who replace them at night are taking shortcuts, hiding engineering reports and lowering safety margins, The Australian reports.

They cite the example of a Boeing 737 aircraft allowed to fly with a cracked cockpit window, increasing the risk of cabin decompression, and say there are other examples of bad engineering decisions.

The union, which represents professional engineers who check Qantas faults and sign off on repairs, says the Boeing 737-800 was incorrectly cleared to fly from Sydney to Canberra and then from Canberra to Darwin and back before it was grounded. It estimates about 400 passengers were put at risk, and claims the flight breached airworthiness directives.

"We believe these poor engineering decisions have occurred due to those management authorised persons having very little recent experience or day-to-day knowledge of the disciplines they are servicing, or the aircraft type they are supporting,'' association senior industrial officer Alison Rose says in a letter to Civil Aviation Safety Authority boss John McCormick.

But Qantas rejected the accusation. "We are very confident standards are being upheld and subject to regulatory engagement and approval,'' a spokeswoman said. "All our contingency arrangements are undertaken by certified engineers.''

APESMA members began the overtime ban in November.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mentally ill Qantas pilot allowed to keep flying

A QANTAS pilot suffering from a mental illness was allowed to keep flying for three years despite complaining of his urges to crash his planes. Bryan Arthur Griffin worked as a pilot with Qantas from 1966 to 1982, when he resigned suffering from severe obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety.

Mr Griffin struggled to resist an overwhelming urge to switch off his plane’s engines on several occasions between 1979 and 1982, evidence tendered as part of a worker’s compensation claim stated.

During a flight from Perth to Singapore in 1979 Mr Griffin stated that his left hand “involuntarily” moved towards the start levers” in a “torturous” compulsion, the Workers Compensation Commission of New South Wales heard. He said he “struggled with the uncontrollable limb as though it wasn’t mine” and was forced to place it under his seat belt to restrain it. “The force of the arm moving against the seat belt towards the thrust levers was so much that it made the arm sore,” the claim stated.

His “pain and terror dissipated” once he left the flight deck and smoked several cigarettes.

A similar incident happened again on his next flight from Singapore to Sydney, with Mr Griffin stating that he felt his hand was “being abused by the uncontrollable pull of the start levers”.

After complaining about these urges Mr Griffin was examined by several doctors and was declared fit to fly. He received extended leave to be treated by doctors and psychiatrists but was allowed to return to the cockpit.

It was found that his condition had been exacerbated by continuing to work for Qantas. Qantas had failed to understand his serious psychiatric problem and he should have been medically retired, a report from Mr Griffin’s psychiatrist said.

The airline has been ordered to pay compensation of approximately $160,000 for loss of earnings, plus medical expenses and legal costs. Qantas is considering an appeal.

Mr Griffin has not flown aircraft again since his resignation from Qantas.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Passengers see 'big flame' erupt from Jetstar engine

An A320 again. Jetstar spinmeister dismisss "big flame" seen by passengers as "few sparks". Honesty does not seem to be in the genes of Jetstar employees

PASSENGERS on board a plane bound for Darwin have told of their terror when the jet caught fire in mid-air after a "loud bang". Jason Bush, 34, who was sitting behind the wing, told the Northern Territory News he was shocked to see sparks flying for up to two minutes. "We were a bit worried about the fuel line catching on fire because there were that many sparks and we thought if that happened we might not be here to tell the story," Mr Bush said.

Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway confirmed yesterday the airbus A320 - which was carrying 163 passengers - experienced engine trouble late on Monday night. It was enroute from Adelaide to Darwin but was forced to return to its departure port when the pilot had to shut down one of two engines. "The engine faulted ... but the cause of the mechanical failure is yet to be ascertained," Mr Westaway said. The pilots informed passengers of the issue and turned around. A fire extinguisher also had to be used.

A passenger from Darwin, who did not want not to be named, said the pilots had just turned off the seat belt signs when he heard the bang. "Passengers on the right side of the plane were saying a big flame came from the right engine then all the lights on the right wing stopped working," she said. Another passenger also reporting seeing flames coming from the engine. "There was a large explosion on my side of the plane and then I could see sparks then flames. The plane shuddered and then we turned around and returned to Adelaide," the passenger said.

Mr Westaway, who has spoken to the pilots, denied the plane was on fire. "I can confirm some sparks may have been seen by some passengers," he said.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Left in dark

My husband and I left Honolulu for Sydney, flying with Jetstar on January 23. As we reached altitude the flight attendants closed the shutters and turned off the main lights.

Being in the middle of three seats I had no light above me and I had to spend 10 hours and 45 minutes in the dark. I called the flight attendant but he had no explanation and walked away.

I have not been able to contact anyone at Jetstar to discuss this matter.

- Eva Neeter


Friday, March 12, 2010

Jetstar passengers complain of mystery illness after smelling fumes in Airbus A320's cabin

SEVERAL passengers and crew became sick after being overcome by a mystery smell while onboard a Jetstar flight from Brisbane to Mackay this morning. A Jetstar spokesman said about six passengers and several crew reported feeling sick just before the plane was due to land in Mackay about 9am. A doctor on board attempted to calm the ill while the pilot radioed ahead for the fire brigade and ambulance officers to meet the A320 Airbus on landing.

The spokesman said the sick were treated at the airport and none required hospital treatment. They had been complaining of dizziness but he denied any passengers were unconscious as a result of the mystery fumes. There were 128 passengers onboard at the time.

The cause of the smell is still unknown. The spokesman said engineers and airport staff checked over the plane but could not locate a problem. The plane was expected to be cleared for further use this afternoon.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Jetstar plane 'came within 38 feet of hitting ground'

"Investigators found Jetstar had changed the standard flying procedures without conducting a risk assessment into what effect the changes might have". And the changes were risky indeed. Worse: Jetstar covered the near-crash up! It was only media questions that got the matter into the light of day! Amazing arrogance and negligence

Distracted pilots of a Jetstar plane carrying 138 passengers came within 38 feet of hitting the ground during an aborted landing attempt in heavy fog at Melbourne Airport, Australia's transport safety watchdog has found. In its final report on the 2007 incident released today, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said the New Zealand-to-Melbourne flight was in its last stages of landing with its wheels down when the pilots decided to abort the landing because of low visibility.

The pilots intended to ascend and reattempt the landing but that's when it all went wrong. A number of factors including pilot error; problems with the flight computers and controls; the distraction of unexpected alarms; and untested changes of pilots' standard procedures saw the plane come close to the ground before aborting, the report said.

The drama unfolded rapidly after the pilot in command incorrectly initiated procedures to handle aborted landings (so-called "go-arounds") by not properly moving the the thrust levers to the "take-off/go-around" position, ATSB investigators found. "That led to crew confusion, which was compounded by alerts and warnings that distracted them; the end result was a higher-than-normal and unexpected workload, and the crew being unaware of the aircraft's current flight mode," the report said.

As a consequence, the flight computers did not switch to the ascent mode and the other air crew did not know what programmed mode the plane was in. The autopilot was still trying to land the plane.

Jetstar's change-of-pilot procedures meant the pilots were distracted from realising the plane wasn't climbing because they had to tick off other items first, the report found. The plane continued to descend to 11.5 metres, setting off a number of alarms. The pilots frantically tried to comprehend a barrage of alarms sounding in the cockpit warning the ground was fast approaching. The pilot in command switched off the autopilot and wrestled the plane back into the sky. It failed to land on a second attempt and was sent by air traffic control to land at Avalon without further incident.

The drama occurred on a Jetstar flight JQ156 from Christchurch to Melbourne on July 21, 2007. Investigators found Jetstar had changed the standard flying procedures without conducting a risk assessment into what effect the changes might have. Jetstar also failed to meet incident-reporting requirements of its safety systems or of the Transport Safety Investigation Act, including not notifying the authorities that the plane's ground-warning alert had sounded and tardy reporting of the incident.

Because Jetstar did not report a ground alert had been triggered, the safety bureau initially decided there was no need to investigate. An internal Jetstar investigation found the ground-warning alarm had been triggered, but still the company did not report this to the bureau as required. A bureau investigation was launched months later only after inquiries from the media into the incident.

As a result of the investigation, Jetstar has changed its go-around procedure to reflect what the aircraft manufacturer, Airbus, recommends. Jetstar has changed it aborted-landing procedures and is reviewing its flight procedures and incident-reporting requirements, the investigators say.

The Australian and International Pilots Association said Jetstar had some questions to answer. "The pilots concerned reported the event however Jetstar management has chosen not to report it to CASA [Civil Aviation Safety Authority] or the ATSB," said the association's president Captain Barry Jackson. "This event was only made known to the ATSB by media speculation, not an ideal way to find out. The obvious question now is what other events have not been reported?"

He said it appeared Jetstar had not followed its own operation's manual over safety reporting. "There seems to be some inconsistencies throughout the Qantas Group and this is not acceptable. Jetstar, Qantas and Qantaslink are all part of the Qantas Group and the same reporting procedures should be in place," Captain Jackson said.

Jetstar yesterday issued a short statement saying it was "pleased" the safety bureau was now satisfied with the company's actions, and that the lessons learned from the incident had been implemented by the airline and aircraft manufacturer.


Qantas Airbus flight turned into a 'war zone'

Without Western Australia's good weather, this could have been a re-run of the disastrous Air France flight from Brazil to Paris. An Airbus A330 was involved in both cases. Relying on heavily computerized aircraft was always an act of faith. We all know that computers often fail in one way or another. The best all-round computer is still between a pilot's ears

QANTAS passengers have revealed the horrific moment they thought they would die in a terrifying plunge that sent travellers hurtling through the air, smashing teeth and bones and tearing ligaments. "All of a sudden the plane dropped like a brick," one passenger said. "It was like a hurricane inside the plane, like a war zone." "The plane fell again," said another. "I thought: 'I didn't think I was going to die in a plane crash, but obviously I am'".

These traumatic descriptions form part of a class action filed in the US against defendants including airline giant Airbus, maker of the ill-fated A330-300 that plummeted twice in quick succession during the flight from Singapore to Perth in October 2008.

More than 100 of the 301 aboard were hurt when a computer glitch caused the plane to nosedive first 650, then 400 feet (320m in total) over Western Australia. Passengers suffered spinal, head, neck and chest injuries from being catapulted into the overhead lockers. Others lost teeth, tore knee ligaments and suffered serious cuts and broken ribs, feet, ankles and hands in the incident.

Eighteen Australians have so far joined the product liability case being run by Wisner Law in Illinois where the potential damages could significantly exceed a similar case run here. The Wisner Law class action covering 37 plaintiffs alleges "defective and unreasonably dangerous conditions"caused the passengers to suffer "serious physical and psychological injury". The action includes a plaintiff's four children and two Qantas employees who were off-duty at the time.

Wisner Law specialises solely in aviation litigation and anyone who signs up agrees to hand over a third of any money they recover - a practice banned in Australia.

Locally, Turner and Freeman lawyer Michael Hyland is acting on behalf of several other passengers who are considering suing Qantas under the Civil Aviation Act, which caps damages at $500,000. Mr Hyland said the airline had been "co-operative" shortly after the incident, paying all of the injury treatment expenses in Australia and overseas, including transport and accommodation for the families of the victims. "It appears psychological injuries are having much more of a profound impact than the physical," he said. Problems reported include post-traumatic stress, nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty sleeping and fear of flying. Mr Hyland has until October this year to file a claim on behalf of his clients.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has yet to release its final report on the incident but last year found that one of the plane's three data units had streamed wrong information to flight computers. The spikes across nine data categories knocked out the plane's autopilot system, leading to the plunges.

Qantas has since installed new software on its Airbus A330 aircraft. The airline is not a defendant in the US class action and has declined to comment further on the matter. If the case proceeds to trial a jury will determine liability and damages.

Law firm Slater & Gordon is also representing some of the injured passengers and London firm Stewarts Law is acting in the matter in the UK.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Qantas in trouble over sudden departure

QANTAS, which is hemorrhaging tens of millions of dollars on long haul services to the US and Europe, is under new pressure after the sudden departure yesterday of finance chief Colin Storrie and the arrival of a former senior executive at the helm of its rival Virgin Blue.

Mr Storrie, who resigned from the Qantas board and as group chief financial officer due to ill health, leaves a significant gap in the carrier's pool of top executive talent.

His departure after just 18 months in the role was announced on the same day that the airline's former executive general manager John Borghetti was named as chief executive of Virgin Blue, replacing outgoing boss and company founder Brett Godfrey.

But while Mr Borghetti was the centre of attention at a press conference in Sydney yesterday morning, a letter was being drafted at Qantas headquarters, announcing Mr Storrie's departure.

His resignation after just 18 months is not only significant from a financial perspective but also because he was the first appointment that Alan Joyce made in September 2008 after being promoted to chief executive.

Yesterday Mr Joyce said that Mr Storrie had been "right by my side since I became CEO and his work as CFO was fundamental to the airline's current financial strength.

"He has contributed greatly to Qantas maintaining a strong financial position during his time as CFO and before that as Deputy CFO. During his time as CFO, Qantas was able to remain in profit as it weathered the global financial crisis."

Qantas is mindful that it could lose key people to Virgin and has sought to shore up the skills within its key executive team by establishing clear lines of succession.

During his six years as the third most senior ranking Qantas executive Mr Borghetti was charged with running the airline's domestic and international networks and ran his own hand-chosen team of managers.

Yesterday, after being anointed as the replacement for Mr Godfrey, Mr Borghetti dismissed speculation that he would bring his own team to Virgin. He starts his new job on May 8.

Mr Borghetti gave little away and refused to flag what changes he was likely to make when he takes the controls of the business after a world tour where he will visit overseas airline partners and other parts of the far flung Virgin empire run by major shareholder Sir Richard Branson.