More problems for Qantas


Qantas has suffered yet another mechanical scare, with the carrier forced to delay a Sydney-bound flight from London by more than 15 hours because of problems with the plane’s rudder.

The airline confirmed that the flight had been grounded following a “technical issue”.

Engineers at London’s Heathrow airport were working overnight to repair the Boeing 747-400, originally scheduled to arrive in Sydney at 5.30am today. The flight is now due to touch down at 7.30 tonight.

“It’s a technical issue with the rudder … that will be rectified overnight,” a Qantas spokeswoman said. “All passengers have been provided with overnight accommodation.”

The faulty rudder is the fifth technical malfunction to beset the airline since July 25, when an explosion ripped a hole in the fuselage of a Qantas jet flying from Hong Kong to Melbourne. The gaping hole in the side of the plane forced an emergency landing in Manila.

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association has accused Qantas of letting standards slip, blaming staffing shortages and cost-cutting for the airline’s recent woes.

Last Friday, routine safety checks at Singapore’s Changi airport revealed a small access panel had fallen off a jumbo jet on its flight to London.

Last Wednesday, a Qantas Boeing 767 experienced a failure that left a trail of hydraulic fluid on the runway at Sydney airport.

On August 2, a Qantas Boeing 767 flight turned back for an emergency landing at Sydney airport after a hydraulic fluid leak was discovered.

And a domestic flight was forced to return to Adelaide after a wheel-bay door failed to close on July 29.

Last week The Australian revealed that Qantas still had six Boeing 747-400s on the ground after discovering it had not completed work ordered eight years ago to stop an explosive decompression.

Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese has urged Australians not to “talk down” Qantas. “Australia has one of the safest aviation systems in the world,” he said last week.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority says it has no evidence to suggest safety standards have fallen at Qantas, despite its decision to launch a widespread investigation into the airline’s maintenance programs, safety standards and response to recent incidents. The review is being conducted by six CASA specialists. CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said the watchdog hoped to deliver its findings by late next week.