QANTAS – Quite A Nasty Time, All Scared

It seems that QANTAS’ alleged safety record is now just a myth.

However, it was, maybe, only a matter of time. Qantas Boeing 747s are an average of 15 years old; the aircraft involved in the current incident, VH-OJK, being slightly older at 17 years.

Yet, in the previous incident involving a Qantas 747 in January 2008

Qantas denied the age of its fleet may have been a factor …. executive manager John Borghetti said the 747 was 16 years old and well within its operational lifespan. He told The Australian newspaper, “These aircraft are built to operate much longer than that ….”

For a comparison, the average age of British Airways’ 747 fleet is 14 years. The youngest fleet of 747s belongs to Virgin Atlantic at 9 years.

11 years ago, back in 1997, the age of 747s in servive was a hot topic of discussion, following the crash of TWA 800.

Dozens of Boeing 747’s are flying far longer than the manufacturer anticipated, with only limited attention to the aging of their components, according to testimony at a hearing today into the crash of T.W.A. Flight 800. But making changes to the planes or even just inspecting them more intensively could damage wiring and thus increase risk, some experts said, casting doubts on what should be done next.

The first Boeing 747 was delivered 28 years ago this month. The planes were designed for 20 years of life, 20,000 flights and 60,000 hours, a Boeing witness said today. But 240 planes are more than 20 years old, 95 have logged more than 20,000 flights and 380 planes have flown more than 60,000 hours.

The Trans World Airlines plane that crashed had flown for about 90,000 hours, 50 percent longer than the original design, and was 25 years old, but had flown only about 18,000 flights.

”We maintain that with appropriate maintenance there is no specific life limit on the 747 airplanes,” said Robert Vannoy, Boeing’s chief of 747 fleet support. Boeing and the airlines have intensively inspected the oldest planes for signs of trouble and made fixes as needed, he said.

Lets not panic too much, though. After all,  747s have travelled many tens of billions of kilometers-enough to make more than 70,000 trips to the Moon and back, and have carried 3.5 billion passengers-the equivalent of more than half the world’s population, and have done almost all of this in complete safety.

I guess we can expect all 747s to have extra checks near the wing root, as it is possible that fatigue cracking may have originated in this area.

I think we can safely ignore any theories of explosions and bombs.

My theory – explosive decompression following failure of part of the airframe. It’s happened before:

At least modern aircraft manufacturers have learnt from the lessons of the past

and airframes are designed with strengthened areas to stop fuselage failure becoming catastrophic. It appears that Qantas’ crew acted correctly – oxygen masks were deployed and the aircraft descended swiftly to an altitude where breathing unaided was possible.


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    […] caravanparkmanager wrote a fantastic post today on “QANTAS – Quite A Nasty Time, All Scared”Here’s ONLY a quick extract […]

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