SMH Thursday, December 30, 1999
Engine piece falls from Qantas jet
By GREG BEARUP
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will investigate how an engine
piece fell from a Qantas jet as it was taking off from Brisbane Airport
on Boxing Day. [Ed: This is a great warning for the supposedly
independent board members and bureaucrats in the transportation control
bodies of Australia - next time could be Sydney, where take-offs over
people happen at an alarming rate, and the rules have a stated
preference FOR this avoidable risk.]
The Boeing 747-200 was heading for a stopover in Cairns before flying to
Tokyo when a rear section of fan ducting came loose and fell from the
A Qantas spokeswoman could not say how large the piece of metal was,
only that it was "a circular piece of metal which came loose from the
back of the engine".
It is not yet known what caused the mishap.
The chunk of metal landed in the Pacific Ocean as the aircraft was
making its ascent from Brisbane. [Ed: But in Sydney all take-offs are
put over densely-populated areas whenever possible, with take-offs over
the water only done when take-offs over people are not possible due to
The spokeswoman said the piece was not a moving engine part, just a
piece of ducting responsible for the smooth flow of air through the
engine and its loss did not lead to any mechanical failures.
She would not speculate on what damage the flying object may have caused
had the aircraft been taking off over a residential area. "Well, that
didn't happen and I would decline to answer that," she said. "As it
happened it fell off over the water." [Ed: Yes, in Brisbane they can
claim "as it happened" but if it happened in Sydney, it would be "as it
was planned", as it is simply not an issue of bad luck for a take-off
incident to happen over people - it is all planned. While not prepared
to comment publicly, I certainly hope the whole bureaucracy has prepared
what it will say to the Coroner if this was to happen in Sydney, as the
Nuremburg excuse (I was only following orders) may well point to the
printed instructions coming direct from the PM's office, but it is NOT
an acceptable excuse, as these statutory bodies and relevant public
officials have an obligation to minimise risk, not to show electoral
bias if asked to do so by the government of the day in flagrant
violation of their statutory duty.]
The flight continued without incident to Cairns, where passengers were
transferred to other flights leaving for Tokyo that day.
The aircraft was repaired then flown back to Sydney for engineers to
examine the damage.
It has since been given the all-clear to continue flying.
A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Safety Authority said the safety
bureau would conduct an investigation but that the matter was not seen
as important. [Ed: But what IS impoartant to the board members and
management of CASA is why they have not spoken out publicly about the
electoral bias and non-minimisation of risk in the present airspace
management of Sydney.]
"Things such as this happen reasonably frequently ... that's why they
have several engines," the spokesman said. [Ed: Well, wont this comment
that "this happens reasonably frequently" hang like an albatross around
CASA's neck at the NSW Coronial enquiry when the inevitable accident
happens over populated areas of Sydney.]
A spokesman for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said the matter
would be investigated fully after the new year.
He said that a team of independent engineers, from Cairns, would look at
the damage and that investigators would work closely with Qantas safety
He said the ATSB did not have the resources to send its own engineers to
assess the aircraft in Cairns but that a team of local engineers had
"It should be a fairly cut and dried report once we see their analysis,"
the spokesman said. [Ed: Well it isn't so cut-and-dried when you factor
in undue risks taken in respect of this type of incident.]
It has not been the best of years for Qantas. On September 3 one of its
Boeing 747s skidded off the runway at Bangkok Airport.
The aircraft was crippled when it aquaplaned during a tropical storm.
It came to rest on a golf course with the nose buried in marshy ground.
It sustained major damage, estimated to cost around $100million to
repair, to the nose, engines, fuselage and landing gear, which was
buried in the mud.
An interim report on that incident has been conducted. However, a full
report will be finalised sometime next year.
Qantas is keen to have the plane fully repaired so as not to lose its
unequalled safety record of never having lost an aircraft.
In another incident, at Melbourne Airport last week, an Ansett jet had
its front nose gear (the front wheel and axle) almost pulled off when
the tug began towing the aircraft while its brakes were still on.
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