Monday, September 01, 2008

CASA urges Qantas to improve maintenance

September 1, 2008 - 7:19PM

The civil aviation watchdog has ordered Qantas to improve aircraft maintenance and will rigorously inspect some of its fleet amid signs of "emerging problems".

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASE) on Monday released the findings of a review sparked by a series of emergencies, including engine problems and July's mid-air drama that saw an exploding oxygen tank blow a hole in the fuselage of one Qantas plane.

CASA's deputy chief executive of operations Mick Quinn cleared Qantas of any systemic failings, but said the airline must work to improve its maintenance and engineering systems.

"We did not find any evidence that the recent spate of incidents - which is largely why the review was called - has any systemic failure," he 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."

But Mr Quinn said the review found Qantas was failing to meet its own standards and CASA would work to ensure the airline lifted its game.

Qantas will be forced to offer up three planes - one from each of the major models flown by the airline - for inspection by CASA officials.

"This will involve checking all maintenance documentation for each of these aircraft to see it has been completed, as well as physically examining the aircraft on the ground," a statement from CASA said.

Mr Quinn moved to reassure passengers that Qantas was safe.

"Qantas is a safe airline and CASA has no doubt about that," he said, but added there were concerns.

"CASA has looked carefully at the Qantas maintenance systems and performance and uncovered signs of emerging problems.

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

National AMWU secretary Dave Oliver said the CASA report should serve as a "wake up call" for Qantas, and said the airline must guarantee no more maintenance jobs will be lost or sent offshore.

"We've sought on many occasions guarantees that work would not be sent offshore or contracted out and we are yet to see such guarantees," he said.

"(Qantas must) ... have a long, hard look at their maintenance operations and start giving the guarantees that are needed in respect of maintaining a strong, viable, high-quality engineering and maintenance facility that has given them the reputation of being the safest airline in the world."

He accused Qantas of focusing more on cost-cutting than the quality of its maintenance.

"When you start outsourcing work you lose control of your quality and in the airline industry, when we're talking about quality obviously we are talking about safety as well."

Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon sought to pass much of the blame for maintenance issues on to industrial action by engineers.

"As we have publicly acknowledged, certain key performance indicators and despatch reliability have been significantly impacted by the industrial dispute between Qantas and the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers' Association over past months," he said.

He stressed that CASA had found no link between any two incidents.

Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese backed CASA's findings.

"This ongoing action sends a signal to the aviation industry, and to the travelling public, that CASA and Qantas are very serious about maintaining Australia's high safety standards," Mr Albanese told parliament.

© 2008 AAP

CASA urges Qantas to improve maintenance
The Age, Australia - 1 hour ago