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Water on Qantas Airways A380: No safety concern?

A Qantas Airways Airbus A380 jet returned to the airport when a burst water pipe sent water down the aisles. Qantas said that there were no safety of flight concerns. That may be true, but should safety professionals make such assertions prior to an investigation?




A Qantas Airways Airbus A380 jet returned to Los Angeles International Airport about an hour after takeoff when a burst water pipe sent water down the aisles. The flight took off from LAX around 12:14 a.m. EST Wednesday, June 2, turning around about an hour later.

Qantas confirmed the incident on Qantas Flight 94, saying the Los Angeles-to-Melbourne flight “returned to L.A. about an hour after takeoff as there was a water leak on board the aircraft.”

Qantas added that “There were no safety of flight concerns with the water leak, however the Captain decided to return to LA in the interests of passenger comfort. We are liaising with Airbus to understand what caused this fault.”

I totally understand the need of the airline to manage their reputation and reassure their passengers that it is safe to fly, but from an SMS standpoint, is it wise to say that there were no safety of flight concerns?

The problem with making such a statement, is the likelihood that it may prejudice the outcome of any investigation into the incident. The human brain is a marvelous work of art and engineering, but it has limitations. Whether conscious or not, when the brain is predisposed to information, it can affect the actions that one should take to unearth what give rise to the hazard or limit the imagination as to the extent of the risk.

I am not an engineer, but I do know that water and electrical wiring in the aircraft is not a friendly mix. Perhaps there were indeed no safety concerns, but this should be determined by the results of the investigation.

The pilot is to be commended for his judgment in turning the aircraft around, as it was at the start of its long journey over the Pacific Ocean. It is always better to be safe, than sorry.

All is well that ends well. The aircraft landed safely without further incident, but as the world awaits the report of the investigation, I would caution safety professionals to withhold statements that can affect the ability to be impartial.




5 Responses

07.03.14

From an avionic engineer point of view I stick to safety issues and I agree with you. safety management theory alerts about the dirty dozen which includes complacency. I am afraid Qantas management is a complacency risk to the system alert.

07.03.14

Just wondering, if the reduction of Skilled and Exceptional Engineers in the recent purge at QANTAS and creating an Outsoursing mentality may have contributed to the poor over night ‘A’ checks being carried out.

There was a sense of ‘Ownership” in the Quality of work performed and in the Company Brand.

I can’t help but feel that the long term viability of the Qantas Brand is now in jepody. It has been my personal experience that the general populus are displaying very low confidence in QANTAS and have a preference to utilise the services of rival Airlines.

Not good for the long term of an Australian Icon.

Just wondering.

07.03.14

The incident of burst water pipe sending water down the aisles in flight cannot be ignored since its inadvertent entry into some nearby electrical junction box may sometimes be hazardous to continue the flight. Captain has taken the right decision to return and deserves management’s appreciation.

07.03.14

There may have been safety issues of short circuits. The more immediate problem is how would you like to have an 11 plus hours flight without water to wash your hands, make coffee and other issues requiring water.

Captain was right to return to LAX.

07.03.14

The pilot was 100% correct to schedule an immediate return. I am an electronic enigineer, and ingress of water can get rather technical as there are equipment enclosure sealing standards that it is mandatory to observe, but I can use a vice-versa to represent the hazard-level in terms a layman could understand:
Would you be a happy passenger on a plane that had been dropped into a bath of water?
Someone had to clean it all out, then check every single item of electronics in the vicinity of the leakage…

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About Wayne Farley

Wayne Farley

I am Wayne, an aviation safety evangelist who once made my living working in the control tower. Engage me while I share my thoughts, experience, and news from the aviation world. After writing "13 Characteristics of an air traffic controller" in 2010, it went viral and established me as an unofficial ambassador for ATC.

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