Qantas still safe: Dixon

Qantas mid-air explosion.

The Qantas mid-air explosion in July left a hole on the jet’s fuselage.

The lately accident-prone Qantas has said it would work closely with safety authorities to implement corrective actions, but Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese has warned the carrier could experience another incident.

A preliminary investigation report into the mid-air explosion in July found while the fuselage and some flight system sustained damage, the aircraft “continued to operate safely”.

The report released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said one of the B747-400’s oxygen system cylinders failed but safe operation enabled the aircraft to land in Manila without further incident.

The carrier’s chief executive Geoff Dixon said the ATSB’s preliminary conclusions were in line with its own investigation.

“We will continue to assist the ATSB to ensure the factors that may have contributed to the incident are understood and that any corrective actions ultimately identified are implemented,” he said.

He said the jet involved in the Manila accident would be repaired at a cost of less than $10 million to be back in service in this November.

He added the company would also collaborate with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to implement the recommendations included in its review of the airline’s engineering and maintenance operations. 

Deputy chief executive of CASA operations Mick Quinn said the authority has identified “emerging problems”.

“CASA has looked carefully at the Qantas maintenance systems and performance and uncovered signs of emerging problems,” he said in a statement.

“The review found maintenance performance with Qantas is showing some adverse trends and is now below the airline’s own benchmarks.”

Mr Dixon said these difficulties, while improving, would continue for a few weeks.

“These issues are not about safety or compliance and we are working to bring our network performance back to the standards which have earned us a reputation as one of the best and most reliable airlines in the world,” he said. 

The company underwent over the past 12 month more than 100 external audits, including 14 by CASA and on by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Commenting on air safety and the Qantas incident in Manila, Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese said this type of accident could happen again.

Mr Albanese said the government could step in to ensure any recommendations made by the ATSB are implemented.

“We need to put in place any measures from the report and recommendations that the ATSB make will be implemented in full by the government,” he told the Nine Network.

While “issues of concern” still remain, he said Qantas had coped with the accident extraordinarily well.   

“One of the things that must be not forgotten about this is the extraordinary response from the Qantas pilot and crew,” he said.

Meanwhile, the carrier faced yet another maintenance glitch early this week, when a Qantas flight from Singapore to London was diverted to Germany after vibration prompted one of its engines to be shut down. A company spokesperson said the Boeing 747-400 carrying 350 passengers landed in Frankfurt without incident.

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