The airline industry has moved to reassure customers about their safety after an engine failure and three turnbacks on Qantas flights this week.
Qantas domestic chief executive Andrew David said mechanical issues were common across the complicated industry, and it was important to look at individual faults in context.
“Aircraft are complex pieces of machinery with millions of moving parts, and it’s not uncommon to have a problem with one of them. What’s important to know is that aircraft are designed with that in mind and have a lot of built-in redundancy, and our crew are trained to deal with those situations so that they can land safely,” David said.
A failed engine on a Qantas Boeing 737-838 travelling to Sydney from Auckland resulted in a temporary mayday alert on Wednesday. The mayday was quickly downgraded to a less severe PAN alert and landed safely after securing priority landing.
Around the world, there are more than 400 engine shutdowns across all narrow-body jet aircraft per year.
The engine failure was followed by three non-emergency turnbacks in the following days.
On Thursday, Qantas turned back a Boeing 737-800 flight to Fiji from Sydney as a precaution after pilots observed a potential mechanical issue.
On Friday, a QantasLink service from Melbourne to Canberra was returned to Melbourne by its pilots as a precaution after an issue with the Boeing 717’s flaps was observed.
The QantasLink turnback followed another false-start for a Sydney to Melbourne flight which was returned to Melbourne after the Boeing 737-800 twin-engine’s pilots were alerted to a minor engine issue. Both engines remained operational throughout the flight and the aircraft was not given priority to land as it was not an emergency.
Australian airspace is considered to be among the safest in the world, despite regular fault indicators necessitating turnbacks across all airlines. Qantas has not had a fatality in 102 years of operation and younger competitor Virgin Australia is yet to crash at all.
There are more than 10,000 “turnbacks” across the aviation industry every year, with Australia’s largest carrier Qantas averaging 60.
The airline’s pilot union president Anthony Lucas said pilots will always act with an “abundance of caution”.
“Our overwhelming priority will always be the safety and welfare of our passengers and crew,” he said.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority said it is confident Qantas is operating safely and actively reviews and monitors the industry.
More often than not, turnbacks do not signify emergency situations. Sometimes, they happen when an airline does not have the required resources or engineers in another country to efficiently service the aircraft, so return an aircraft to a home airport to cause less disruption to future flights.
Aviation consultant Matthew Findlay said media coverage over the past week was unhelpful and overdramatic.
“I think most in the industry would say it’s whipped up hysteria that is overdramatic. Fault indicators and turnbacks happen regularly, but we’re talking about one of the safest industries in the world,” he said.
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Source: Thanks smh.com