Qantas slammed over poor pilot training
CANBERRA, Australia (CNN) -- Australia's largest airline Qantas has had its safety practices and pilot instruction attacked in a report into a runway accident in Bangkok, Thailand, two years ago.
A Qantas 747 jet skidded off the end of a rain-saturated runway and into a golf course at Bangkok in September 1999.
No passengers or crew were injured in the accident but $50 million of damage was caused to the plane.
An investigation report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau into the accident, released Wednesday, finds the Qantas first officer and captain misjudged the landing and were inadequately trained to subsequently prevent the accident.
The accident resulted from "a complex mixture of active failures, inadequate defenses and organizational factors", the report says.
In particular, the first officer landing the craft touched down well beyond the normal zone on the runway, then aqua-planed along the surface due to heavy rain. However, if the crew had applied reverse-engine thrust the accident could still have been prevented.
Cost saving measure a factor
The report finds Qantas management had instructed its pilots not to use reverse thrust because it caused wear and tear on the planes.
"Although the flight crew and cabin crew made a number of errors, many of these were linked to deficiencies in Qantas's operational procedures, training and management processes," the report says.
"As with other B747-400 pilots, the crew had not been provided with appropriate procedures and training to properly evaluate the potential effect of the weather conditions," the report says.
"In particular, they were not sufficiently aware of the potential for aquaplaning and of the importance of reverse thrust as a stopping force on water-affected runways."
Qantas pilots have now been instructed to use full reverse thrust when landing in conditions similar to those which resulted in the Bangkok incident.
Wake-up call on safety
Safety bureau executive director Kym Bills said the report was "a wake-up call to Qantas, who may have been lulled into a false sense of security by their very good safety record".
Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority is also criticized in the report for latent failures, including deficient rules for wet landings, emergency procedures and training, and poor surveillance of flight operations.
Responding to the report Qantas said it accepted the investigation's findings and the airline was now continually reviewing and enhancing its operational training and procedures.
Qantas chief executive officer Geoff Dixon said the airline had strengthened its safety procedures as a result of the Bangkok accident.
He said Qantas was continually looking at ways to improve its productivity but, "under no circumstances would we compromise safety standards in any way to gain efficiencies".
Second incident that year
The Bangkok accident was the second major incident for Qantas that year.
Six months earlier, the landing gear on a Qantas jet collapsed while it was taxi-ing on a runway in Rome. Preliminary investigations into that accident suggest inadequate testing procedures by the company which makes and re-conditions the landing strut which failed on that occasion.
April 2001 has been a bad month for Australian aviation, with earlier this month the nation's second largest airline Ansett having 10 of its passenger jets grounded by safety authorities.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority grounded the jets after repeated concerns over Ansett's safety and maintenance procedures.
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