December 9, 2014 – Australia’s Qantas was forced to make three unscheduled landings in 24 hours, including the turnaround of one of the world’s longest haul flights, but pilots said the incidents were likely unrelated.
The QF7 flight to Dallas returned to Sydney late Monday after four hours in the air due to a technical issue which impacted seat power, the in-flight entertainment system and some of the toilets. “While the aircraft could have continued flying safely to Dallas, the decision was made to return to Sydney in the interests of passenger comfort on what is a long flight,” a Qantas statement said.
The Sydney to Dallas route, among the world’s longest non-stop commercial flights, typically takes around 15 hours. The aircraft was the second of Qantas’ A380s to experience a problem on Monday. Another of the superjumbo passenger jets, flying from Dubai to Sydney, was diverted to Perth due to a fault with the cabin air system while over the Indian Ocean.
As a precaution, the captain descended from 39,000 feet to 10,000 feet in just five minutes, and requested a priority landing in Perth before touching down safely. “It’s standard procedure to descend quickly in these circumstances and at no stage was the safety of the aircraft or passengers at risk,” Qantas’ head of flying operations Mike Galvin said in another statement.
The third incident involved a flight from the Western Australian capital Perth to the mining hub of Karratha which was reportedly turned back after an unusual odour was detected.
Australian and International Pilots Association president Nathan Safe said he was confident the incidents were unrelated. “Generally, aeroplanes are built tough enough and with enough redundancies and all that kind of stuff that you do have some time to assess the situation,” Safe told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The incidents came on the same day that the embattled airline announced it was on the way to an underlying half-year profit of up to Aus$350 million (US$289 million) after a major shake-up to stem losses which has included thousands of job losses.