Australia’s aviation watchdog to investigate Qantas after 3 mid-air faults

Thursday, August 7, 2008, 11:51 by Aviation Correspondent

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), Australia’s aviation watchdog, has decided to investigate Qantas Airways, the national airline of Australia.

The move follows three mid-air emergencies that happened recently on Qantas jets in less than 10 days.

The investigation will take place over the next two weeks.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has formed a special team to examine topics such as maintenance, safety systems and the way Qantas handled the recent incidents in mid-air.

The immediate provocation for the CASA decision was an emergency landing by a Qantas Boeing 767 flight to Manila carrying 200 passengers at Sydney Airport on August 2, 2008, after the pilot discovered a hydraulic fluid leak in the aircraft.

On July 25, 2008, a Qantas flight bound for Hong Kong had to make an emergency landing at Manila after a mid-air explosion made a hole in the plane’s fuselage.

In yet another incident of mid-air fault, a Qantas domestic flight was forced to return to Adelaide in Australia after a wheel-bay door failed to close.

Australian media quoted Peter Gibson, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, as saying: “We have no evidence to suggest that there are problems within Qantas, but we think it’s prudent and wise to go in with a new special team and take an additional look at a range of operational issues within Qantas.”

David Cox, head of engineering of Qantas has said “the airline’s maintenance and safety procedures remain first class,” adding, “we have no issue with this latest review and CASA says it has no evidence to suggest that safety standards at Qantas have fallen.”

In an apparent reaction to the recent unhappy incidents involving Qantas and the launching of the investigation by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Geoff Dixon, chief executive of Qantas Airways Limited, delcared that his airline is “probably the safest” in the world.

Geoff Dixon told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio on August 4, 2008: “There is no pattern behind the three malfunctions. We do know we have no systemic problem in this company.”

“Still,” Dixon added, “the Australian flagship airline’s reputation for safety is suffering from media coverage of the mechanical failures. It is our job to make sure we get that reputation back.”

Alan Joyce, who currently is the chief of Qantas’ discount carrier Jetstar, will replace Geoff Dixon as the chief executive of Qantas Airways in November 2008.

Joyce has spiked rumours that Qantas would be turned into a budget airline.

Reports from the United States say the three recent emergencies have not adversely affected sales of Qantas tickets in the US.

Qantas has launched a new advertising campaign in the United States.

Meanwhile, Qantas is set to start passenger flights of the Airbus superjumbo in October 2008, with flights from Sydney and Melbourne in Australia to Los Angeles in the United States.

Qantas, one of the world’s oldest airlines, has often boasted of having never lost a jet plane in an accident.

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