4 Aug 2008

Special team to investigate Qantas safety

5:45 pm on 4 August 2008

Australia's aviation watchdog has formed a special team to investigate Qantas, amid growing public concern that the airline's safety standards may have slipped.

The captain of a Qantas 767 flight made an emergency landing at Sydney Airport on Saturday after discovering a hydraulic fluid leak.

A Qantas spokesperson said, "On inspection, engineers determined that fluid was coming from the spoiler actuator that was not evident before departure. There was no safety issue at any time."

It was the third Qantas plane in just over a week to make an emergency landing because of a mid-air fault.

On 25 July, a Qantas flight was forced to make an emergency landing at Manila after a mid-air explosion tore a hole in the plane's fuselage.

Last Tuesday, a domestic flight was forced to return to Adelaide after a wheel bay door failed to close.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority's spokesman, Peter Gibson, says there is no evidence that safety standards at Qantas are dropping. "People shouldn't jump to conclusions that they're all linked," he said, referring to the three incidents.

The special investigation team will examine a range of issues, such as maintenance, safety systems and the way Qantas had handled the recent incidents. The review will take place over the next two weeks.

The outgoing chief of Qantas, Geoff Dixon, says the company conducts 150 internal audits and 75 external audits of its own each year. He says the airline has no operational problems.