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.

About Wayne Farley

I am Wayne, a career air traffic controller with over 30 years of industry experience. Engage me while I share my thoughts, experience, and news from around the aviation world. A post titled “13 Characteristics of an Air Traffic Controller” written in 2010 went viral and established me as the unofficial ambassador of ATC.

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