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.


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