Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another Qantas 'glitch' delays England cricket team

The faults sure keep coming quick and fast

THE Engish cricket team has been delayed in Brisbane this morning due to a mechanical glitch with their Qantas plane.

Fast bowler James Anderson tweeted: "Flight has been delayed due to a mechanical problem with the plane. I would rather them change the aircraft than say it will take 20 mins to fix." Beanpole paceman Steven Finn was more succinct. "Nervous!" he tweeted.

The team finally took off 70 minutes late. "The aircraft had a minor technical issue. It was a hydraulic fault," a Qantas spokesman said. "The plane was left there and passengers put on another flight."

The cricketers will now arrive at Adelaide, venue of this week's second Ashes Test, 55 minutes late.

Another mechanical fault stops a Qantas flight

PASSENGERS were forced off a Qantas plane bound for Sydney this morning after a brake problem. Heraldsun.com.au believes the 208 passengers waited for 50 minutes on the tarmac at Melbourne Airport as engineers assessed the plane.

The embattled airline's latest problem comes just two days after a stray rock-climbing rope jammed in the baggage conveyor. Some passengers were told they could search through trolleys to find their lost bags.

This morning's flight was due to leave Melbourne at 6.30am (AEDT). A Qantas spokeswoman said the passengers were being put on other flights. "The plane will be in service this afternoon," the spokeswoman said. "This is a really minor issue. "I don't have the statistics on how often this kind of thing happens."

The spokeswoman said travellers had no reason to worry about flying with Qantas. "We will always put safety before schedule," she said.

Qantas has employed couriers to return up to 400 items of luggage to passengers after Sunday's baggage malfunction at Melbourne Airport.

Sydney-bound passengers were told they could walk on to the Sydney Airport tarmac to search through trolleys of missing bags if they signed a form and donned a yellow vest.


Monday, November 29, 2010

QANTAS blots its copybook again

A customer reports on a drawn-out baggage bungle:

The day of my flight was the day after the A380 engine incident. Whist at the airport I was interviewed by Channel 7 asking me if I was at all worried about my flight. I told them I was like 'Rain Man' and only liked to fly Qantas, that I was more worried about my connecting flight with Aeromexico to Guadalajara.

I checked my bags in 3 hours before my flight as requested. When I was boarding my flight the scanner beeped after reading my ticket. I was pulled aside by a Qantas staff member and asked if I had my bags checked in. I told him that I had checked them several hours ago and also informed him that I was going to a 300 year old Hacienda in the middle of Mexico and that I needed my bags to be on board as well as I needed to get that flight because I had a conference to attend.

When I landed in LA my bags were not there. The Qantas representative who was a US citizen told me that my bags were still in Sydney and assured me they would be sent to my hotel. I informed him that I was not staying in a city luxury hotel, that my Hacienda was 2 hours away from Guadalajara airport and was not easy to find. He guaranteed me that I would have my luggage in 24 hours.

Over the next 2 days my husband had several conversations with Qantas 'Customer Service'. He was told that I could purchase some clothing and Qantas would refund me the cost of new clothing. There were no shops and there were no ATM machines anywhere near me. 4 days after I boarded the plane I received a phone call from Guadalajara airport saying I had just 1.5 hours to collect my luggage or it would be shipped back to Australia as unclaimed baggage. I had been wearing the same underwear and clothing for 4 days. I had had enough.

I got to the airport, not knowing any Spanish and had to try to find someone who could help me sort the situation out. I was led to a room where my luggage was, unfortunately on my way out of Customs for the second time I was told that I couldn't go through. I had already given the Customs officer the proper papers a few days earlier and the Customs officer said that without that paperwork I couldn't enter Mexico again.

I got back to my Hacienda and demanded that someone from Qantas call me. Finally I spoke to someone who was actually Australian who guaranteed me that Qantas would make arrangements to make my trip home better, at the very least I was offered to enter the Business Class lounge. When I checked in at LAX there was no such information on my booking. I didn't get an upgrade nor did I get to enter the Business Class lounge as promised.

After 2 weeks of dealing with Qantas and having my holiday totally ruined by their lack of customer service I have decided to revoke my membership of their frequent flyer programme. I will be contacting channel 7 to do a follow up story on their lack of customer service, and I have decided that from now on I'll be a Virgin customer.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Can QANTAS get ANYTHING right?

The lack of maintenance really shows. Thank goodness the latest engine failure took place while the plane was still on the ground

AS Qantas staged a major PR exercise to mark the return of its A380 fleet to service, another plane from Sydney, a 747, was grounded last night with engine failure. The flight, QF1 from Sydney to London, was due to leave at 6.05pm - but passengers were pulled off the plane after a loud noise emanated from the engine while they were taxiing towards the runway. The flight was later cancelled.

Earlier, passengers watched as Qantas CEO Alan Joyce staged a media conference to assure the public the company was now "100 per cent confident" A380 planes were safe. To prove the point, Mr Joyce flew the Singapore leg on the first A380 plane to return to service since the fleet was grounded three weeks ago when an engine exploded on a flight from Singapore.

But while passengers on the A380 flight to London got away on time, passengers on board flight QF1 to London via Bangkok were pulled off their flight because of an engine fault. "The aircraft was taxiing to the runway and the pilot had an indication of an issue with one of the engines, and following procedures it returned to the bay," a Qantas spokesman said. The passengers disembarked about 7pm and were given meal vouchers, while engineers examined the engine. But at 9pm they were told the flight was cancelled.

It was expected to leave at 9am today.A passenger on the plane told The Sunday Telegraph he could hear the engine die. "We were on the tarmac and then the captain said there was a mechanical problem; he said there was an electrical fault and that every time they tried to start the engine up it cut out," he said. "We sat for 45 minutes and then they took us off the plane."

He said many passengers were annoyed the A380 flight, with Mr Joyce on board, left on time while they were stuck.

But as the passengers boarded the 5.30pm A380 QF31 flight to London earlier, they expressed concerns. Claudia Clegg, 28, from Lilyfield said she was far from happy to be on board the first flight to return to service since the November 4 incident.

On board QF31 for her honeymoon with husband Jonathan, she said she was feeling "anxious" and was not happy to be flying an A380. "I've been following the story," Mrs Clegg said. "I received an email from the CEO two days ago saying they were pleased to announce that the A380 was going to start flying again and that I would be on the first flight. "They said the CEO would be on the flight but that does not make me feel any better."

But Lesley Arena, 28, from Bondi, said she had no doubts the flight would be uneventful. "I'm sure that if it wasn't safe they wouldn't put it up at all," she said.

Mr Joyce said 16 Qantas A380 engines would have to be replaced, and two engines on yesterday's aircraft had already been replaced.

The captain of yesterday's flight, David Evans, who was part of the cockpit crew onboard flight QF32, said as "a precaution" Qantas had decided to use "reduced thrust" on the engines for the initial flights. [Not exactly a vote of confidence!]


Friday, November 26, 2010

Jetstar fires safety whistleblower

The usual Jetstar bloodymindedness. They sure hate criticism

JETSTAR has accused a former employee who publicly raised concerns the airline's cost-cutting methods of misleading the public with "numerous untruths".

First Officer Joe Eakins, 31, was fired after criticising the airline’s plan to hire air crews based in Singapore "on wages well below their Australian-based colleagues" and what effect this would have on passenger safety.

His concerns were outlined in an article published last month and he was sacked for breaching company policy of speaking publicly about the airline.

"I am shocked and saddened they have chosen to react this way," he told the Herald Sun. "I've been a good employee and I'm shocked any company would sack an employee for raising their concerns about safety and industrial issues, especially in the airline industry."

However Jetstar has hit back at his claims, saying they are “untrue”. "The employee chose to publicly make incorrect accusations on multiple and separate occasions against Jetstar with the effect of misleading the travelling public," the airline said in a statement.

The budget carrier said it sought to resolve the issue with Mr Eakins "on numerous occasions but there was no engagement, nor acknowledgement, than an issued existed".

Jetstar Australia and New Zealand Chief Executive Officer David Hall said the airline has a healthy culture across its which encourages all employees to report and discuss any issues and concerns in relation to safety. “We will never, nor have, taken action against any employee for raising safety concerns - we welcome genuine engagement regarding safety from any part of our workforce - without fear or favour,” Mr Hall said.

“In the past, and moving forward, our pilots based in Singapore achieve better take home pay in comparison to our Australian pilots. “Assertions of a 50 per cent discrepancy in pilot pay between Australia and Singapore or circumvention of existing industrial law are patently false.

Mr Eakins has been contacted for comment regarding Jetstar's allegations.

The Australian and International Pilots Association says it has consulted lawyers over the incident and will take action via Fair Work Australia. Association president Barry Jackson described Mr Eakins as a whistleblower and hero to the Australian aviation community and vowed to "take this as far as we can". "Joe's bravery in blowing the whistle on some of these practices has been rewarded by an unfair dismissal," Mr Jackson said.

Mr Eakins said in his article that the Australian aviation sector "is at a crossroads". "Not only are the dreams of the youngsters who look skyward at risk, but the institutions that created our reputation for safety through well trained experienced pilots is under threat, which is bad news for all Australians."

Earlier this month a Jetstar training captain also questioned the airline's training methods and resources. Geoff Klouth, a Jetstar pilot for four years and commercial pilot since 1987, outlined his concerns at a senate inquiry into aviation training and standards. He said that as a result some flight attendants have completed their training without having operated on the airline’s A321 aircraft, leaving them unsure how to “arm” the doors.

"They have been unable to 'arm' doors. Arming the doors is necessary to allow for the automatic deployment of the emergency escape slide if the aircraft has to be evacuated," he said in his submission.

Klouth also raised concern about the increasing number of flight attendants who are based in Singapore and Bangkok yet operate domestically on international flights. “The foreign based crew all speak English but the ability to be understood in an emergency is an aspect of their training that is not effectively assessed.”

He said the increasing pressure airlines are under to cut costs may threaten air safety. “The CEO of Jetstar requires a ten percent reduction in the airline costs per year. In a safety sensitive industry this will result in a reduction of the safety margins that have contributed to Australia’s aviation safety record.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Fault delays another Qantas flight

A QANTAS flight from Frankfurt to Sydney had to be grounded in Singapore after engineers found a hydraulics system fault on Saturday evening.

The problem was found just before about 400 passengers began reboarding the Boeing 747, which was on a two-hour stop at Changi Airport. A spokeswoman for Qantas - which has endured a spate of mechanical incidents in past weeks, including the grounding of its fleet of A380s - said pilots had not noticed the fault during the flight from Germany.

"The problem came to light when engineers did their pre-flight checks, and there was no issue on the flight from Frankfurt," she said. "The passengers were put up in a hotel overnight and will travel to Sydney on the same plane and the overnight delay was caused by our engineers having to source a part." The flight, QF6, was due to take off at 12.35am today.

In recent weeks Qantas has suffered four midair incidents serious enough to require planes to return to their departure cities.

An Airbus A380 and Boeing 747 both returned to Singapore after engine failures. Another 747 returned to Sydney after smoke appeared in the cockpit and last Wednesday a bird strike forced another 747 to return to Johannesburg.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Jetstar: 'If you don't like it, get off the f---ing plane'

I notice that Jetstar is running a competition for travel stories. Here's mine, which I doubt will win. It is a true story.

I was flying from Christchurch to Melbourne. I am 60 and a regular flyer, but I have never faced such aggression from cabin crew nor have I seen it directed at anyone else.

I was sitting in the front row, boarded last and found the luggage bins near my seat full. The attendant asked me to hang onto my bag for a minute. When he came to take it he said he would put it down the back.

I asked how I would get it when we landed, he said I'd have to wait until everyone deplaned. I said I'd prefer to have the bag closer. He said: "If you don't f---ing like it get off the f---ing plane." When I wrote and complained to Jetstar I received a $7 gift voucher, which can only be redeemed if I book another Jetstar flight. As if.

Qantas running on empty

On the same day as the Qantas A380 mid-air explosion, I flew from Los Angeles on QF16 non-stop to Brisbane. Early in the morning the captain announced that we did not have sufficient fuel to land in Brisbane and we'd be diverting to Noumea to top up.

There was also insufficient food on board. Several passengers did not receive the overnight goody bag and, after leaving Noumea, there were not enough breakfasts. This meant that some passengers had little or nothing to eat after the dinner service shortly after leaving LA, a period of about 17 hours, given the diversion.

These incidents are a lot less significant than the A380 engine explosion but I believe they do speak of a general disintegration of Qantas service standards on every level.

There are several daily non-stop Qantas flights between LA and Brisbane. How can it be that our flight ran short of fuel? Qantas has shown no interest in answering this question.

Big men not catered for on Qantas A380s

As noted in Flight Test (Traveller, November 6), the arm rests in economy on the Qantas A380 don't come all the way up. Having paid for an extra seat, for more space, my money was wasted.


Friday, November 19, 2010

'Unprecedented' number of failures on ill-fated Qantas A380 flight

Another very close "near miss" for Qantas

NEW details have emerged revealing just how close Qantas flight QF32 came to disaster earlier this month.

Turbine fragments flew out of the plane’s engine when it exploded in mid-air, severing cables in the wing, narrowly missing the fuel tank and taking out flight control systems during the November 4 incident, according to a preliminary report by Airbus.

The pilots were forced to deal with an "unprecedented" number of issues during the two-hour ordeal, Vice President of the Australian and International Pilots Association, Richard Woodward, said. "The amount of failures is unprecedented,'' Mr Woodward, a Qantas A380 pilot who has spoken to all five pilots told the Associated Press. “There is probably a one in 100 million chance to have all that go wrong.''

The Federal Secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, Steve Purvanis, has emphasised just how lucky the passengers were to survive the incident. "Definitely with fuel gushing out of the fuel tank there and some very hot components, certainly one that was hot enough to explode an engine, they were very lucky that fuel inside the wing didn't ignite," he told ABC News. "The passengers and crew on board were probably unaware of how serious the situation was. "I would say from the pictures that I've seen that they're very lucky to be alive today."

The pilots were hit with one problem after another during the ordeal. With the engine on fire, the pilots struggled to deploy the fire suppression system. The wing’s two fuel tanks were punctured and fuel was leaking out, creating a growing imbalance between the left and right sides of the plane. However the pilots were prevented from pumping fuel forward from tanks in the tail due to electrical problems, which saw the plane become tail heavy.

Safety investigators say that this may have been the greatest risk - if the plane had become too unbalanced it could have stalled and crashed.

The pilots were also bombarded with a massive number of computer messages alerting them to the current and future system failures. One message warned that the main power system was about to be lost, leaving them with only enough power for vital systems - “the last thing you need in that kind of situation”.

“I don't think any crew in the world would have been trained to deal with the amount of different issues this crew faced,'' Mr Woodward said.

Luckily, there were five experienced pilots onboard the plane with a total of 100 years of flying experience between them. Among them was Captain Richard De Crespigny, who flew the plane while the other pilots dealt with the computer alarms and made announcements to the passengers.

However even when the runway was in sight the problems were not over, with the wing flaps and landing gear doors inoperable. The pilots were forced to use gravity to lower the gear.

The aircraft suffered several flat tyres during the landing as brake temperatures reached over 900 degrees Celsius.

It is likely that for some of the problems there were no procedures because no airline anticipates so many things going wrong at once, John Goglia, a former National Transportation Safety Board member said.

The airline has kept its entire A380 fleet grounded since the incident. It was announced yesterday that over 40 Rolls-Royce engines on A380 fleets worldwide will need to be replaced following the incidents, with up to 14 Qantas engines needing to be inspected and potentially replaced.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

New engines for Qantas superjumbos

ABOUT 40 Rolls-Royce engines on the world's A380 fleet will need to be replaced, Qantas chief says. This would represent about half of all Rolls-Royce engines on A380 planes that are currently in service.

Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said the move was to ensure safety after one of the airline's engines broke apart mid-flight earlier this month, Reuters reports. Mr Joyce said the airline is in talks with Airbus to replace some of its existing Rolls-Royce engines with new engines from planes still in production on the Airbus assembly line.

"We've been talking to Airbus and Rolls-Royce and we understand that the number (of engines to be replaced) is around 40," Mr Joyce said. "We've already replaced three and there could be more."

Qantas has been plagued with issues since grounding its fleet of Airbus A380s after an engine explosion on November 4 forced an emergency landing in Singapore.

Yesterday one of the airline's Boeing 747 planes bound for Sydney was forced to turn back to Johannesburg after one of its engines suffered a bird strike.

On Tuesday one of Qantas' smaller Boeing 717s was hit by lightning on a regional flight between the destinations of Alice Springs and Darwin hours earlier, causing "minor damage" to the exterior.

The incidents follow the return to Sydney of a Qantas Boeing 747 bound for Buenos Aires on Monday after it suffered an electrical fault which caused smoke to pour into the cockpit.

Qantas refuses to confirm reports its A380 fleet will not return to operation until next month.

Both Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa have inspected the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines on their A380 fleet and have returned the planes to service.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jetstar flight hit by mechanical problem

A JETSTAR Airbus has been forced to return to Brisbane due to a mechanical problem soon after take off. A hydraulic system malfunctioned on the Airbus A320 early into the flight to Mackay around 4pm yesterday, Jetstar's head of corporate relations, Simon Westaway, said.

"We had a burst of hydraulic fluid," he said. "One of the systems was losing hydraulic fluid. "For safety reasons, the flight returned to Brisbane. "It was a standard return and the aircraft was under full control of the pilot at all times."

The flight, JQ 888, landed without incident, and none of the 164 passengers was injured. They are being put on alternative flights and Jetstar was to put on an extra service to Mackay tonight.

Mr Westaway said the A320s have three hydraulic systems and investigations are under way to discover which one failed. He said it could have been the landing gear.

Mr Westaway said the incident should be kept in perspective, especially in light of recent issues Jetstar's parent company Qantas has had with its A380s this month. "Safety is paramount and we operate very safe operations," Mr Westaway he said.

Qantas grounded its flagship Airbus A380 long-range aircraft after an engine exploded on a flight from Singapore to Sydney on November 4.

Since then a Qantas Boeing 747 on its way to Argentina was forced to return to Sydney after smoke was released into the cockpit and a domestic flight from Perth to Melbourne had to return after flight crew became aware of a vibration in one engine of the Boeing 767.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Qantas calls in flying doctors for A380 'hospital line'

QANTAS will have an Airbus A380 superjumbo in the air by the end of the month - a new plane Airbus is due to deliver in France in the next fortnight.

But the other six aircraft remain out of service - one damaged and impounded by air investigators in Singapore after the midair engine explosion on November 4, and the other five grounded while engine checks and technical examinations continue.

Qantas is establishing what it calls a "hospital line" to manage the checking, dismantling, upgrading and reinstalling the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines from the aircraft, said Qantas's chief executive, Alan Joyce.

Airbus has announced that Rolls-Royce has a kit to bring older Trent 900s up to date with the latest version coming off its production line. "The engines, when we take them off, will essentially go through a 'hospital line', which is an intense program that will look at fixing these components on the engine," Mr Joyce said.

Rolls-Royce has been making running modifications to the design, manufacturing and assembly of the engine's components, including the component believed to be at the centre of the midair explosion, a gear bearing and its oil supply system.

Qantas first has to identify what version of the engines it has, what problems the engine might exhibit and determine what components need upgrading to bring the engines up to the latest specification.

"When we identify that there's an engine that is a problem engine, that engine will be taken off-wing, and that engine will go through a program that puts those [latest] modifications back on it," Mr Joyce said. "We have the aircraft on the ground so we're obviously taking engines off, as we speak. Rolls will be then telling us what the program is to get them through the 'mod program' [of technical updates] and this 'hospital' review.

"We need to have the plan from Rolls about when this can be done, when the components can be done, when the components can be provided."

Work will be done in Rolls-Royce's engine facilities - one in Hong Kong and one in Britain. Engines will be airfreighted to the workshops from the grounded planes, two in Sydney and three in Los Angeles. They will then be modified and flown back for re-installation.

"We don't know at this stage what that time-frame's going to be," Mr Joyce said. "That means we can't be definitive when the aircraft will be back in the air."

There is also likely to be a shortage of the special cranes that lift and move the engines from the wings.

The latest industry estimate is that about 20 engines in the Singapore Airlines fleet, as many as 14 in the Qantas fleet and two in Lufthansa's fleet will need to be upgraded. Singapore Airlines is particularly affected, having received more early versions of the engine, Mr Joyce said.

Even the new A380, the seventh in Qantas's fleet, will still be subjected to the same airworthiness directives from the European Aviation Safety Agency as the other Rolls-Royce engines in the A380 fleet, which requires engines to be inspected by their 10th flight and every 20 flights thereafter.

Qantas is due to receive its eighth A380 next month and its ninth in January, so it should have at least one in the skies for Oprah Winfrey's tour to Australia.

Airbus has said Rolls-Royce is completing a software patch that would shut down an engine automatically in flight if it sensed anomalies to its normal operating conditions. The new A380 will be fitted with the latest version of the Trent 900 engine and the safety shutdown software.

Mr Joyce said that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority was also involved in the process of returning the aircraft to the skies. He said Rolls-Royce would not put Qantas at the back of the queue for new engines, even if Singapore Airlines needs a larger number of engine replacements or upgrades.

"We did all testing before anybody else did. Other airlines were clearing their fleets to fly. "We said 'no', we'd found problems. And when we found the problems we were requesting spare engines, so we were in there first; it was one of the advantages of the process that we've done."

Rolls-Royce has provided scant information to the public about how it is handling the engine explosion and the fallout, leaving the explanations to the airlines and airframe manufacturer.

Some industry insiders say it has adopted the strategy of BP in its handling of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: say as little as you can and it will all go away.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Qantas flight turns back after 'electrical issue'

A Qantas flight from Sydney to Buenos Aires has been forced to turn back after experiencing electrical problems.

The incident comes nine days after a Qantas aircraft made an emergency landing at Singapore airport when one of its engines disintegrated over Indonesia.

A statement from Qantas said that flight QF17, operated by a Boeing 747 and carrying 199 passengers, departed from Sydney Kingsford Smith at 11:11am. The aircraft suffered "an issue with the electrical system" and landed safely back at 1:22pm, the statement said.

Reports from Australian media said that the plane, which was also carrying three flight crew and 18 cabin crew, had to dump fuel before it landed. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the electrical problem lead to smoke in the cockpit.

One passenger told the paper's website: "There were no lights, no entertainment, only the emergency panels were on," "We were pretty bloody concerned."

No one was injured during the incident, Qantas said. Engineers are investigating the cause of the problem.

The incident is the latest piece of bad news for the Australian carrier, which celebrated its 90th birthday last week under a cloud of concern over the safety of its fleet of A380 superjumbos.

The string of mid-air emergencies has dented Qantas's reputation as the safest airline in the world. The company has never suffered a fatal crash.

Investigator questions Jetstar safety

A Jetstar training captain and former air-accident investigator has raised concerns about safety standards at the low-cost airline, saying some cabin crew are not properly trained for emergencies and its safety department is not adequately resourced.

In a submission to a Senate inquiry into aviation training and standards, Geoff Klouth said the airline had reduced the time spent on training new attendants, resulting in some cabin crew completing their courses without operating on its A321 aircraft.

"They have been unable to 'arm' doors. Arming the doors is necessary to allow for the automatic deployment of the emergency escape slide if the aircraft has to be evacuated," he said in his submission.

Mr Klouth, a Jetstar pilot and a former senior investigator at the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, said captains had stood down some flight attendants because of their lack of safety training for the A321s, which was a "symptom of the reduction [by Jetstar] in resources and training".

A Jetstar spokesman, Simon Westaway, said the airline demanded its flight attendants meet the highest of safety standards and this had been the case since it was launched in 2003. "We require a very high standard … and we stand by the training regime we have in place," he said. "We have sound resourcing right across the business, including in our safety department."

Mr Klouth was a fleet investigator in Jetstar's safety department when one of its aircraft made an aborted landing in Melbourne on June 21, 2007. Although he said there was not a "deliberate attempt to conceal information", there were "no protocols that required the ATSB to be informed of subsequent information" about the incident. His role as a fleet investigator was a part-time position as he was also a first officer.

Mr Klouth said his investigation into the Melbourne incident was limited by a "lack of resources" in the department. "As a part-time investigator I was not provided with a computer and had to provide my own, and I was not even allocated a desk," he said in the submission. "An airline safety department should be audited, possibly by CASA [the Civil Aviation Safety Authority], to ensure that sufficient resources are provided."

He wants airline safety departments to be forced to send copies of any internal investigation to the safety bureau. "Not all incidents that have been investigated by Jetstar have been reported to the ATSB," he said.

Mr Westaway said the airline provided up to 40 per cent more incident reports to the ATSB than it was required to, and the safety bureau had issued a final report in March about the Melbourne incident. "We stand steadfastly by the safety culture - you only have to look at our record," he said.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

A380 gamble wings Qantas

A QUEST by Qantas to become an early operator of the troubled Airbus A380 aircraft to help stave off competition from its rivals has backfired, experts believe.

The purchase of 20 super-jumbos, at a price of $332 million each, goes against Qantas's previously conservative buying practices, a senior aviation source said. He said the airline would traditionally wait for teething problems to be fixed before buying new models. "Qantas wanted to … be the first and the fastest. It had to buy the A380 to compete with Singapore Airlines [the first airline to offer an A380 service] on similar routes."

Rolls-Royce, which makes the Trent 900 engines for Qantas's A380s, has admitted responsibility for two engine failures and other faults that have grounded the airline's six superjumbos since November 4, but not before Qantas suffered huge financial losses and blemishes on its safety record.

Qantas would not confirm if it planned to pursue a multimillion-dollar warranty and damages claim against Rolls-Royce even though the manufacturer admitted modifying its new Trent 900 engines to address a potentially dangerous oil leak.

The British company confirmed an oil fire on QF32 had led to the disintegration of a turbine disc above the Indonesian island of Batam. An airline spokesman said yesterday compensation "was not on the radar at this stage" while it was working closely with Rolls-Royce to modify the engines.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said yesterday he refused to rush the A380s back into service. "We're not going to rush anybody, we're not going to be putting a deadline on it. We're going to make sure it's absolutely right before we have this aircraft start flying again," he said.

The airline has suffered four in-flight or pre-flight mishaps since the engine on a Singapore-Sydney A380 flight failed 10 days ago. Another flight from Singapore to Sydney, of a Boeing 747-400, was also forced to turn back with engine failure, and yesterday a Sydney-to-Melbourne flight was temporarily grounded with a mechanical fault.

Richard Woodward, an A380 captain and vice-president of the Australian and International Pilots Association, said Qantas was a "victim" in the Rolls-Royce engine drama. "It is a customer of Rolls-Royce and had trust in its long association with that company," Captain Woodward said. "Qantas is a victim in some ways and will just have to wear it for the time being."

The airline has acknowledged that, despite its strong reputation for safety, the latest engine dramas would have an effect.

Qantas management was also watching developments with the new-generation Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft to be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines. In August, a Trent 1000 exploded in a British test lab.

On Tuesday, a Dreamliner was forced to make an emergency landing during a test flight after a small fire in an equipment bay. Qantas has ordered 50 Dreamliners.

The Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association said Qantas would suffer continuing operational issues because Rolls-Royce maintained the Trent 900 engines.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Qantas grounds Perth flight after more engine problems

QANTAS has been involved in yet another mid-air mishap, with passengers on their way to Melbourne from Perth forced to return after engine problems. The flight had to return to Perth Domestic Airport after the crew detected a vibration in the left-hand engine of the Boeing 767. The plane landed safely and the 234 passengers on board would be flown to Melbourne on other Qantas flights.

The incident is the latest in a series of sky-high dramas that have plagued Qantas and seriously damaged its safety reputation and brand.

The airline last week grounded its fleet of six Airbus SAS A380s after an engine in one exploded mid-air over Indonesia on November 4, forcing an emergency landing in Singapore with 466 people on board. A day later, a Qantas 747 jumbo jet was forced to return to Singapore after flames erupted from one of its engines. A third Qantas aircraft made a priority landing at Heathrow Airport in London on November 5 after problems with its hydraulic fuel system.

The Boeing plane involved in the latest incident from Perth had GE engines.

Rolls-Royce, the makers of the A380 engine, was tonight expected to announce it had worked out solutions to the engine problems grounding the six Qantas superjumbos.

Singapore Airlines have also grounded its A380 planes while the Australian Transport and Safety Bureau investigate the explosion over Indonesia.

Qantas has embarked on a series of cost-cutting measures as the airline industry struggles in the wake of the global financial crisis.

It has undertaken massive staff reductions, cut back on customer service and in-flight catering and outsourced its maintenance work offshore as it struggles to retain profits and boost its share price.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Qantas 'scarebus' QF32 was a flying wreck -- a hairsbreadth from disaster

We now see how brilliant was the job done by the pilot in landing the aircraft safely. Up there with Chesley Sullenberger. Singapore's superb Changi airport also deserves some credit for having a full 4km runway

Last week's mid-air emergency off Singapore also badly damaged a wing, which may have to be replaced. A full list of the damage to the Airbus A380 has been revealed after it was nursed back to Singapore on three engines.

When it touched down the fuel systems were failing, the forward spar supporting the left wing had been holed and one of the jet's two hydraulic systems was knocked out and totally drained of fluid.

Sources compared flight QF32 to the Memphis Belle, the World War II bomber that became the subject of a fictional award-winning 1990s Hollywood movie by the same name. The film portrayed the heavily damaged aircraft landing in England after a bombing raid on Germany.

Richard Woodward, vice-president of the International Air Pilots' Federation, told the Herald Sun yesterday that the lesson from the near disaster was the value of an experienced flight crew.

"There was a wealth of experience in the cockpit, even the lowest ranked officer on board had thousands of hours of experience in his former role as a military flying instructor," said Capt Woodward, himself an A380 pilot on leave from Qantas.

As another senior pilot said: "It is bad enough for an engine to explode in mid-air let alone lose so many secondary systems".

Investigators found shrapnel damage to the flaps, a huge hole in the upper surface of the left wing and a generator that was not working.

The crew could not shutdown the No. 1 engine using the fire switch. As a result the engine's fire extinguishers could not be deployed.

Captain Richard de Crespigny, first officer Matt Hicks and Mark Johnson, the second officer, could not jettison the volume of fuel required for a safe emergency landing.

With more than 80 tonnes of highly volatile jet kerosene still in the 11 tanks -- two of which were leaking - they made an overweight and high speed approach to Changi Airport.

Without full hydraulics the spoilers - the hinged flaps on the front of the wings - could not be fully deployed to slow the jet. The crew also had to rely on gravity for the undercarriage to drop and lock into place.

On landing they had no anti-skid brakes and could rely on only one engine for reverse thrust - needing all of the 4km runway at Changi to bring the jet to a stop.

The three crew have been interviewed by Australian investigators and cleared to return to duties.

Industry sources said the damage will almost certainly put the airline's flagship jet - the Nancy-Bird Walton - out of service for months.

Investigators found that an oil fire may have caused the engine to explode.

Details of the stricken jet's problems were revealed yesterday in an emergency directive by the European Aviation Safety Authority. The authority made it mandatory for airlines with the now suspect Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines to make checks for excess oil. If not detected, excess oil can cause a fire and ultimately result in "uncontained" engine failure, with potential damage to the aeroplane and to people or property on the ground.

Qantas made it clear it will keep its six superjumbos grounded indefinitely and has rearranged flight schedules using substitute aircraft. "The specific checks mandated by the directive were already being carried out by Qantas in conjunction with Rolls-Royce," it said. "Qantas's A380 aircraft will not return to service until there is complete certainty that the fleet can operate safely."


1 Massive fuel leak in the left mid fuel tank (there are 11 tanks, including in the horizontal stabiliser on the tail)

2 Massive fuel leak in the left inner fuel tank

3 A hole on the flap fairing big enough to climb through

4 The aft gallery in the fuel system failed, preventing many fuel transfer functions

5 Problem jettisoning fuel

6 Massive hole in the upper wing surface

7 Partial failure of leading edge slats

8 Partial failure of speed brakes/ground spoilers

9 Shrapnel damage to the flaps

10 Total loss of all hydraulic fluid in one of the jet's two systems

11 Manual extension of landing gear

12 Loss of one generator and associated systems

13 Loss of brake anti-skid system

14 No.1 engine could not be shut down in the usual way after landing because of major damage to systems

15 No.1 engine could not be shut down using the fire switch, which meant fire extinguishers would not work on that engine

16 ECAM (electronic centralised aircraft monitor) warnings about the major fuel imbalance (because of fuel leaks on left side) could not be fixed with cross-feeding

17 Fuel was trapped in the trim tank (in the tail)creating a balance problem for landing

18 Left wing forward spar penetrated by debris


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Airport nightmare as ill passenger 'ignored by Jetstar'

Jetstar big on waffle afterwards, though

A SICK and pregnant woman stranded in a Singapore airport says Jetstar repeatedly ignored requests for help after her condition deteriorated during the seven-hour delay. Instead it was left to another passenger on the flight - a doctor - to intervene and advise Antonia Phipps, 30, be urgently removed from the departure gate after being provided with water and a place to lie down.

By that stage Jetstar had run out of water and the couple were kept at the airport for another three hours along with the rest of the passengers.

“My wife and I were extremely disappointed and upset at how staff handled the situation,” Glenn Phipps, 34, said. “They (Jetstar staff) responded regarding the delay in quoting that there were many passengers to look after. I told them that surely my wife was a priority.”

Mrs Phipps, 18 weeks pregnant, contracted a virus in Thailand and was examined in hospital the day before the flight. She was eventually issued with a fit-to-fly certificate and medication for the scheduled flight back to Sydney from Phuket on JQ28.

The stranding happened after the plane developed a problem with both autopilots and was grounded. The problem was compounded when the flight they were rescheduled to fly home on - Qantas flight QF32 on Thursday – made headlines around the world after its engine exploded mid-air the day before and it too was grounded.

Mr Phipps said he didn't contact an ambulance as his wife wouldn't have let him. He said she was trying her best to "tough it out" in front of their daughter. Mr Phipps says Jetstar has now apologised over the incident and offered compensation in the way of flights.

Jetstar spokeswoman Andrea Wait said while the incident was being further investigated the airline has been proactive in addressing the delay. Ms Wait said the airline sought to minimise the impact of the diversion on its customers by providing day and evening accommodation in Singapore and re-booked all passengers onto Qantas and Jetstar services to Sydney.

“In this customer's case, we sought to be as flexible as possible, delaying travel until the customer was able,” she said. “In this situation if a passenger becomes unwell at the airport and requires urgent medical assistance, we will notify the relevant health authorities at that location or direct them to available medical facilities, if appropriate.”


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The "F*** you" airline again

Jetstar passengers forced to sleep in airport

Up to 60 Jetstar customers were forced to sleep on seats at Sydney Airport after storms caused delays to flights, a passenger claims.

The budget airline said it had not received official reports of people being told they had to sleep at the airport, saying it was providing rooms for stranded passengers until 1am (AEDT) this morning.

But Sam Thornton told ABC Radio in Sydney that many travellers were told to sleep on the floor and on seats. "It was just the management's attitude," he said. "They had no accommodation and no access of getting to anywhere - top management came down and I think they really didn't give a damn."

Jetstar communications general manager Simon Westaway said the airline was still "getting clarity" on what happened. "We haven't officially been told of anyone who was told they had to sleep in the airport," he said.

The storms in Sydney last night caused a backlog at several airports across the country. Hundreds of travellers were forced to sleep at Brisbane Airport after Sydney-bound flights were cancelled due to the poor weather.

Severe thunderstorms shut down Sydney Airport from 6pm with no domestic or international flights able to land or take off. Scores of flights to and from the city were cancelled, with many diverted to Brisbane and Melbourne. Five international flights carrying more than 1000 people were diverted to Brisbane.

Brisbane Airport Corporation spokesman Jim Carden said Sydney's 11pm curfew meant four of those services were unable to resume when weather eased about 8.30pm Brisbane time, stranding hundreds of people. Mr Carden was unable to confirm how many passengers had stayed overnight at the airport, but said more than 1000 passengers were affected.

A Qantas spokeswoman said hotels had struggled to cope with so many stranded people. "There was a severe shortage of accommodation in Brisbane so [for] any of our passengers that were unable to find accommodation or return to their homes, we made the Qantas Club lounge available to them," she said. "There were a lot of people in the terminal overnight. Over 1000 people were affected across the country [from all airlines] ... 6pm is not a great time, there's a lot of flights coming in."

Mr Carden said some would have chosen to stay at the airport with the hope of leaving early this morning. "We've been voted one of the best airports to sleep in ... we often find people sleeping there for six, seven hours," he said.

A Virgin Blue spokeswoman said about 800 customers in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne were affected by the storm. She said the airline had been able to accommodate all 200 Brisbane passengers in hotels and put them on new flights this morning.

The Qantas spokeswoman said all passengers from Brisbane had been rebooked on prescheduled flights this morning.

There were reports this morning that some passengers were angry they had not been given promised food vouchers while they waited at Sydney Airport.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

QANTAS superjumbo engine failure MAY have been due to inadequate maintenance

Following is an excerpt from an EU notification which says that Rolls Royce Trent engines have a component with a high wear rate -- and that unusually frequent inspections of the component are therefore required. It specifies that engine failure is likely if this is not done

Wear, beyond Engine Manual limits, has been identified on the abutment faces of the splines on the Trent 900 Intermediate Pressure (IP) shaft rigid coupling on several engines during strip. The shaft to coupling spline interface provides the means of controlling the turbine axial setting and wear through of the splines would permit the IP turbine to move rearwards. Rearward movement of the IP turbine would enable contact with static turbine components and would result in loss of engine performance with potential for in-flight shut down, oil migration and oil fire below the LP turbine discs prior to sufficient indication resulting in loss of LP turbine disc integrity. Some of these conditions present a potential unsafe condition to the aeroplane.

This AD requires inspection of the IP shaft coupling splines and, depending on the results, requires further repetitive inspections or corrective actions. Since issuance of AD 2010-0008 Rolls-Royce has inspected several additional engines subject to IP shaft coupling spline wear. Inspections were carried out on-wing as well as in-shop.

Analysis of the results EASA AD No : 2010-0008R1 EASA Form 110 Page 2/3 provides a better modelling of the wear rate and allow to redefine reinspection periods based on: - average wear measured on each individual engine rather than maximum wear. - individual engine wear rates rather than an assumed worst case rate.

These inspection periods are extended compared to original issue of AD 2010-0008, and are deemed sufficient to prevent unacceptable wear. Effective Date: Revision 1: 18 August 2010 Original issue: 29 January 2010


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Another Qantas jet forced to make emergency landing

This would seem to be too much of a coincidence. Sabotage?

Another Qantas plane has been forced to make made an emergency landing after experiencing engine problems. Passengers on board the Qantas Boeing 747-400 jumbo said they heard a bang and saw flames "coming out" of the aircraft's engine minutes after takeoff. "We could see some flames coming out from the engine," Singaporean passenger Terence Sim told reporters after disembarking at the airport.

It is the second Qantas jet in two days to be forced to return to the airport after take-off with engine trouble.

A Qantas spokesman said: "Shortly after takeoff, the aircraft (QF6) from Singapore to Sydney experienced an issue with one of its engines. As a precautionary measure, the captain got priority clearance to return to Singapore. The aircraft landed safely a short time later without incident." There were 412 passengers on board, along with three flight crew and 16 cabin crew. No one was injured.

"We could see quite an impressive plume of flame from the engine," said Australian passenger Andrew Jenkins, 43. "There was a bang, not particularly loud, just loud enough to draw your attention."

Alan Rumsey, a 60-year-old Australian, criticised Qantas for the second incident in as many days. On Thursday, an Airbus A380 also belonging to Qantas was forced to turn back to Singapore after one of its engines exploded minutes into the flight to Sydney, showering debris on a nearby Indonesian town. "It makes me wonder how reliable Qantas is since this is the second incident in two days," said Mr Rumsey, adding that the airline needed to improve its maintenance.

He said the people seated on the left side of the plane who saw the fire "got scared and started shouting".

The Boeing 747-400 passengers' accounts were similar to the experience of those aboard the A380, who also recounted hearing a loud explosion and seeing fire on the Rolls-Royce engine.

According to the Qantas website, flight QF6 is a Boeing 747-400, fitted with four Rolls-Royce RB211-524G-T engines. The daily flight operates between Frankfurt and Sydney, with a stopover in Singapore. The aircraft was expected to take off again several hours later.


Friday, November 5, 2010

QANTAS alleges a design fault in A380 engines

Rejects opportunistic union claims. The plane was only two years old and recently had a heavy maintenance procedure in Germany by a Lufthansa facility -- so maintenance is unlikely to be the problem. Apparently the wing was pierced by debris so the problem was much more dangerous than a loss of power in one of four engines

QANTAS has rejected as "outrageous" union concerns over the outsourcing of maintenance of its aircraft, after the mid-air explosion on one of its A380s.

Qantas has suspended all of its A380 flights across the world while the carrier investigates the cause of the blast in one of the plane's four engines shortly after departing Singapore for Sydney yesterday .

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the cause of the engine failure was still being investigated, but it appeared likely to be a design problem. "It was a significant issue and a significant failure with the engine, and something like this we take very, very seriously," Mr Joyce told Fairfax Radio Network in Melbourne.

"That's why we've made the decision independently to ground the aircraft because we feel that our safety reputation and our focus on safety is our number one priority."

Mr Joyce said the engines had been maintained by manufacturer Rolls Royce since Qantas took possession of the A380s. "This is not an issue with overseas maintenance... "The accusations that somehow we're damaging safety by taking shortcuts on maintenance is just outrageous and it's not true."

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) yesterday said there were serious concerns with the A380 aircraft and called for all six Qantas Airbus A380s to be examined.

ALAEA federal secretary Steve Purvinas said safety was a growing concern for Qantas engineers, with continued outsourcing of maintenance work.

Mr Joyce said last year 92 per cent of Qantas' heavy maintenance work was done in Australia, and that figure would be over 85 per cent this year.

Another engine on the plane could not be switched off when the aircraft went to land, which Mr Joyce said was likely to be related to the problem with the No.2 engine that failed.

Mr Joyce said the A380s would remain grounded for "as long as it takes for us to be absolutely sure that the aircraft are going to be safe to fly".

Qantas engine drama: reports of debris, explosion on superjumbo

Back of engine blown off

Passengers on the giant Qantas Airways jet forced to make an emergency landing in Singapore on Thursday said they heard a loud bang and saw pieces of one of the engines fall off soon after take-off for Sydney.

The Airbus A380, which had originated in London and was carrying 459 people, suffered failure of one of its four engines.

Australian officials said no one on board was injured. One passenger said an explosion ripped off the engine's rear casing. "I just heard this massive bang, like a shotgun going off," Tyler Wooster told Australia's Network Nine television. "Part of the skin had peeled off and you could see the foam underneath, pieces of broken wires sticking out."

Thursday's incident was one of most serious for the A380, the world's biggest passenger jet, in its three years of commercial flight. Qantas said it was grounding its fleet of six A380s pending a full investigation.

"I was sitting over the wing, where the No. 2 engine is. I was looking out of the window on the tarmac as we took off," Ulf Waschbusch, another passenger, told Reuters.

Former aircraft engineer Neil Shephard was also on board. "Four or five minutes after the flight there was a loud bang. The pilot said there was a technical issue with the plane and then we circled around for an hour to dump the fuel," he told Reuters.

"During the landing, it was a bit wobbly. We could not tell the extent of the problem until we got out of the plane where we could see one hole around six to seven inches wide on the wing. The pilot did a good job, it could have been worse."

"Qantas flight QF32 was en route from Singapore to Sydney, the number two engine has shut down, so as a precautionary measure we are taking it back to Singapore," a Qantas spokeswoman said. Qantas said the airliner landed at 11.45am local time.

No passengers or crew have been injured, Australia's Foreign Affairs and Trade department said.

Six fire engines immediately swarmed around the aircraft as soon is it landed on the tarmac, an AFP reporter at Changi Airport said. "I can see smoke coming out of it," the reporter said. "One of the engines on the left wing looks blown off. It is black and has jagged edges."


Following Qantas's decision, two A380 flights from Los Angeles would be grounded tonight, as would one in Sydney.

Speaking in Sydney late this afternoon about today's incident, Qanta's chief executive officer, Alan Joyce, said the aircraft and its engine were new. "We have decided that we will suspend all A380 takeoffs until we are fully comfortable that sufficient information has been obtained about QF32,'' he said. "We will suspend those A380 services until we are completely confident that Qantas safety requirements have been met."

Indonesian authorities said there had been some sort of explosion over the island of Batam, just south of Singapore, at about 9.15am local time. The explosion rained debris on a downtown area of Batam. Pictures on local television showed the Qantas logo on some of the debris.

Australian Geoff Reay, who lives on Batam Island, said his neighbours all heard an "explosion" and ran out on to the street. "Our little boy goes to [Elsadai School], about 200 metres from where there are bits of the aircraft on the ground," Mr Reay, a former Qantas flight attendant, said. The debris fell in the suburb of Dutamas, Mr Reay said.

A Qantas spokeswoman said there was "no suggestion it's come from our aircraft".

Indonesian media reports said jet debris had fallen on downtown Batam and pictures on local television appeared to show the Qantas logo on some of it. Tatang Kurnia, head of Indonesia's Transportation Safety Board, said the explosion came from a Qantas plane that had just lifted off from Singapore.

A Qantas pilot, who did not want to be identified, said engines were routinely shut down on aircraft which fly around the world but "it must have been quite a catastrophic failure if it blew parts off an engine".

In a recent similar incident, an engine exploded on a Qantas flight to San Francisco on August 30, with debris tearing holes in the engine cover. Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigators found all of the engine's turbine blades had either fractured or broken away. The cause of the explosion of the Boeing 747's Rolls Royce RB211 engine is still under investigation.

Qantas shares slumped 15 cents, or 3 per cent, to $2.82 on initial reports of a crash but soon recovered and were recently trading at $2.92.


A Singapore Airlines flight was forced to turn back on a flight from Paris in December last year due to an engine problem.

In August, German airline Lufthansa shut down one of the engines on a Airbus A380 flying from Tokyo to Frankfurt. Flight crew detected a change in oil pressure which was probably the result of dirt particles clogging a filter in the hydraulic circulation system, Lufthansa said at the time.

Air France has also been forced to ground its superjumbo several times due to a problem with the fuel system.