Tuesday, September 02, 2008

CASA rules Qantas maintenance below par

CASA rules Qantas maintenance below par

2/09/2008 12:00:00 AM

The air safety regulator has found evidence of emerging problems with Qantas's maintenance and performance, and ordered the airline to fix the problems quickly.

An independent safety audit of the airline by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority found the airline's maintenance performance had fallen below the airline's own high benchmarks.

But CASA found there was no evidence of systemic safety problems, nor any links between a string of in-flight incidents in the past 14 months and an increase in the rate of safety incidents.

International pilots and unions said yesterday the findings were ''a wake-up call'' for Qantas, which had been plagued for more than 12 months by stalled pay talks with its licensed aircraft maintenance engineers. These were finally resolved a month ago.

Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon said yesterday the carrier would work closely with CASA to implement its recommendations.

Mr Dixon said, ''These issues are not about safety or compliance and we are working to bring our network performance back to the standards which have earned us a reputation as one of the best and most reliable airlines in the world. These difficulties, while improving, will continue for a few weeks yet as our policy of safety before schedule is sacrosanct.''

In releasing the safety review findings, CASA's deputy chief executive officer operations, Mick Quinn, said the regulator had found no direct link between recent safety incidents among them the explosion of an oxygen bottle on a 747-400 near Manila in July.

Mr Quinn said, ''We believe these are random events, the sort of events that would happen on any airline, on any given day, in any part of the world.

''Qantas is a safe airline and CASA has no doubt about that.''

Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese told Parliament the actions ordered by CASA had sent a signal to the public and the industry that Qantas was serious about maintaining its high safety standards.

Mr Albanese said, ''Australia can indeed be proud that we have a rigorous, world's-best- practice safety regime and that Qantas is rightly regarded as an airline with a reputation for safety that is second to none.''

Opposition transport spokesman Warren Truss said he expected the CASA review to help Qantas improve its maintenance and performance systems.

CASA has ordered the airline to produce a plan to tackle deficiencies in its maintenance performance. That plan would include a full maintenance audit of one of each major type of aircraft in the Qantas fleet. It has ordered a second audit of Qantas maintenance systems in response to CASA airworthiness directives and how recent failures to comply with directives have been handled.

''CASA has looked carefully at the Qantas maintenance systems and performance and uncovered signs of emerging problems,'' Mr Quinn said.

''The review found maintenance performance within Qantas is showing some adverse trends and is now below the airline's own benchmarks.''

The general manager of the Australian International Pilots Association, Peter Somerville, said the review uncovered issues that had been raised by pilots and engineers for some time.

''The ball is well and truly in Qantas's court now ... There's a real wake-up call in this for all involved.''

source: CASA rules Qantas maintenance below par
The Canberra Times, Australia - 1 hour ago