Qantas flight in Johannesburg scare

2010-11-17 09:13

Sydney - A Boeing 747 carrying 171 passengers bound for Sydney turned back to Johannesburg after a bird slammed into one of the jumbo's four engines shortly after takeoff late on Tuesday, the airline said.

It landed safely, but suffered damage to turbine blades in one engine that would take a day or two to repair, Qantas spokesperson Tom Woodward said.

Also on Tuesday, a Qantas Boeing 717 sustained minor damage to its fuselage when it was struck by lightning during a domestic flight between Alice Springs and Darwin. The aircraft did not have to turn back because of the strike, and continued safely to its destination of Darwin, Woodward said.

The bird and the bolt of lightning were the latest problems to strike Qantas, the airline said on Wednesday, causing the fourth flight turnaround since an engine blowout on one of its Airbus superjumbos caused a global safety scare.

The string of incidents on Qantas' older fleet of Boeing aircraft is unrelated to the A380 scare and were caused by various glitches and uncontrollable events that are not uncommon to any major carrier, the airline and a commercial aviation analyst said. But the events have happened in an unusual cluster and have drawn extra attention following the superjumbo blowout.

Four Qantas flights have turned back to port since the A380 incident because of various faults and problems. The airline says none of them were as serious as the superjumbo problem, and the turnarounds were in line with Qantas' routine safety procedures.

The day after the A380 problem, a Qantas Boeing 747 bound for Sydney turned around and landed safely in Singapore after an engine caught fire minutes after takeoff. Last Friday, a Boeing 767 turned back on a domestic flight in Australia after pilots detected abnormal vibrations in an engine.

Not uncommon

On Monday, the flight crew aboard a Qantas Boeing 747 bound for Argentina donned oxygen masks and returned to Sydney after an electrical fault sent smoke into the cockpit.

Peter Harbison, the head of the respected consultancy the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, said the various problems Qantas flights have experienced since the A380 incident are the kind of things that all airlines experience from time to time.

"None of them is uncommon in its own right, though it is relatively uncommon to have such a string of them so quickly, with no common cause," he said. "It's just one of those times - when you're unlucky, you're unlucky."

Extra attention has focused on Qantas - which has a reputation as one of the world's safest airlines - since the November 4 A380 incident, when one of the plane's four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines disintegrated in flight and sent shrapnel ripping through the wing before it returned to Singapore and landed safely.

Aviation officials have identified an oil leak near a turbine as the flaw that caused a fire and the engine failure, and Qantas' six A380 - the world's largest passenger plane - remain grounded while the airline carries out checks and repairs. The other carriers using Trent 900s on their A380s, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa, have returned their planes to service.

Meanwhile, investigators called off their search for missing parts from the stricken A380 that fell off when the engine disintegrated - including a chunk of a turbine disc that shattered into pieces in the explosion.

Engine being scrutinised

The failure sent shrapnel searing through a wing and scattered debris across Indonesia's island of Batam. Many parts were found by residents, and investigators found more, though they said they were being hampered by thick jungle.

"A number of small engine components were recovered during the search, including some turbine blades and blade attachments; however, other significant parts of the liberated No. 2 turbine disc have not been located," the bureau said in an update on the investigation posted on its web site.

The stricken engine has been removed from the plane in Singapore and was being dismantled for closer scrutiny, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said. Examination of a part of the turbine disc that was recovered from the plane has been completed, it said.

The bureau is due to deliver a preliminary report on the incident by December 3.

- Were you on the flight? Do you know anyone who was on the flight? Send us your story

  • rudivdwalt - 2010-11-17 10:19

    did the bird survive??

      warickw - 2010-11-17 10:58

      I hope so!

      Nebula - 2010-11-17 11:25

      You see, the information bill should go through... The journalists completely ignore the welfare of the bird... that is bias...

      mavchat - 2010-11-17 22:05

      More questions: Will the pilot be charged with cruelty to animals? Why didn't the Air traffic controller instruct the plane/bird to change course? How did the bird not see the plane coming and change course? Was the birds family notified? Will the birds family seek to take legal action against Qantas?

      AJ - 2010-11-18 06:08

      Agreed, did the plane have all it's required lights on and was the bird wearing a reflective vest? We need to get to the bottom of this. Did weather play a role in terms of visibility?

      Jay - 2010-11-18 07:53

      Was the bird under the influence of booze?? Maybe it was playing Chicken.......was it a chicken?

  • Hannes Perth - 2010-11-17 10:37

    The common cause is that Qantas outsourced their maintenance so that unionised Australian avaition engineers do not do the maintainance on their airplanes anymore.

      naudes - 2010-11-18 00:07

      Hannes, stop covering up for failing Australia, Qantas's big boss ensured the worrying Australian public on TV the other night that "Qantas does all it's own Maintenance", my question to you is, "Did he lie?"

  • McFreak - 2010-11-17 13:10

    So who is to blame? The unions or the birds?

  • lynda.scotson - 2010-11-17 17:25

    My sister was on that flight from JHB and this is the most recent update I have from him : MESSAGE FROM MICHAEL::Hello - I have just got home. Barbara is still in J'burg. They changed her flights to mine, as there was time, but customs would not let her through - as she had already left the country. And then SAA would not take her luggage. But we were delayed anyway due to a fault so she could have easily made my flight. My flight was less than 1/2 full but SAA would only take 20 out of the 171 people stranded. Does not make any sense to me; they are supposed to be partners Qantas and SAA.

  • mavchat - 2010-11-17 21:32

    Birds may soar but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines...

  • Carmen - 2010-11-18 08:58

    Train travel sucks, air travel sucks, car travel sucks - bring back the horse

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