International

Qantas, Australia airlines, in-air accidents
Mark Baker/AP

Recent Safety Issues Rock Revered Qantas

August 06, 2008 06:00 AM
by Josh Katz
Australia’s airline Qantas, famed for its safety record, is being investigated after a series of recent in-air incidents.

30-Second Summary

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Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority has created a special investigative team to look into the safety of Qantas Airlines after the airline experienced several dangerous incidents in the span of two weeks.

On July 25, a Qantas plane flying from Hong Kong to Melbourne had to make an emergency landing in the Philippines after an oxygen cylinder exploded, creating a hole in the fuselage. Three days later, a Qantas 737-800 had to return to Adelaide because of a problem with the landing gear door. On August 2, a Qantas Boeing 767 flying from Sydney to Manila had to turn back to Australia after a hydraulic leak was discovered.

The airline has experienced other incidents in 2008, including “an emergency landing in Hawaii caused by an oxygen leak” in January, and another in March when “an external window in business class ‘popped,’” according to The New Zealand Herald.

A Qantas engineering executive said the airline’s safety standards have not declined and accused the media of bringing more attention to the issue because of Qantas’s impressive safety record. But flight attendants are not so trusting and have asked Qantas for assurances.

The airline announced in June that it would cut its staff and it has instituted other money-saving measures because of the high cost of fuel. Some trade unions have blamed the outsourcing of maintenance contracts overseas for the trouble.

In Australia’s Daily Telegraph, Tory Maguire says Qantas has always felt like “family” to Australians thanks to its safety record. But now, that relationship is “at risk of being pushed to breaking point.”

Qantus’s mid-air incidents cause worry

The authorities have also said that passengers need not worry. “I think we’re a bit of a victim of our own success,” David Cox, Qantas’s executive general manager of engineering, told the New Zeland Herald. “Qantas’s safety standards are so high and so well recognized that when we do have an accident like the other day with OJK, the aircraft in Manila; it’s big news.”
Qantas flight attendants have expressed worry over the three recent incidents, and have asked the airline for some safety assurances. “We want some assurances from the company that these are isolated incidents,” said Steven Reed, president of the Flight Attendants Association of Australia. “We need to meet with the company at a senior level to have these assurances.”

Background: The recent troubles of Qantas

The Sydney Morning Herald provides photographs of the damage from Qantas Flight 30, revealing “the devastation caused by an exploding oxygen bottle, which forced the pilot to make an emergency landing in Manila.”
In June, Qantas announced that it would have to cut many of its workers, and the airline has instated a number of other cost-cutting measures to deal with the rising fuel costs. The problems experienced in the air have only compounded the airline’s troubles, and furthermore, Qantas Chief Executive Officer Geoff Dixon has said he will step down in November.

Opinion & Analysis: The future for Qantas

The Melbourne Herald Sun commends the decision to conduct investigations by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. “The airline and the public will clearly benefit from the investigation. If anything is found to be wrong, it will be put right and if nothing is wrong, public confidence will have been maintained.”
In Australia’s Daily Telegraph, Tory Maguire says that the great safety record of the airline has always given Australian’s a sense of national pride. Also, the airline “has always been a bit like one of the family,” he says. “While we’re happy to pick on her faults we’ll punch the lights out of an outsider who criticises her.” But Maguire is also worried about the recent safety gaffes.
In an “Ask the Pilot” feature, Patrick Smith explains that the recent problems experienced by Qantas are not as serious as the media has made them out to be. “When it comes to aviation, media overreaction to minor events is nothing new. While not on a par with, say, the over-the-top coverage surrounding the emergency landing of a JetBlue Airbus three years ago, or the nonsense spawned by ‘citizen journalist’ Jeremy Hermanns in December 2005, the Qantas mishap received its fair share of hype.’”

Reference: Rain Man

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