Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Qantas 747 makes emergency Perth landing
Australian passengers have told of a terrifying mid-air emergency that left a gaping hole in the side of a Qantas plane, forcing an emergency landing in Manila.
The Qantas Boeing 747, en route from London to Melbourne, via Hong Kong, landed safely on Friday and a "gigantic" hole was discovered in the belly of the plane, near the wing, according to passengers.
Melbourne woman Dr June Kane said she heard a loud bang and then saw debris flying through the depressurised cabin.
"There was a terrific boom and bits of wood and debris just flew forward into first (class) and the oxygen masks dropped down," she told ABC Radio from Manila airport.
"I'm looking at the plane now and on the left hand side, just forward of the wing, there's a gaping hole from the wing to the underbody.
"It's about two metres by four metres and there's baggage hanging out, so you assume that there's a few bags that may have gone missing.
"It was absolutely terrifying, but I have to say everyone was very calm."
Manila airport operations officer Ding Lima told local radio the plane lost cabin pressure shortly after takeoff from Hong Kong and the pilot radioed for an emergency landing.
"There is a big hole in the belly of the aircraft near the right wing about three metres in diameter," he said.
"Upon disembarkation, there were some passengers who vomited. You can see in their faces that they were really scared."
During the emergency part of the plane's flooring gave way, exposing some of the cargo in the hold, he said. Part of the ceiling also collapsed.
He said the aircraft was carrying 350 passengers and 16 crew.
Other passengers who talked to the media at the airport described hearing an explosion, followed by oxygen masks dropping from the ceiling.
It's understood all passengers escaped injury.
A Qantas spokeswoman in Australia was unable to give more details but confirmed the flight had been diverted.
"Qantas can confirm Qantas flight 30 from Hong Kong to Melbourne has been diverted to Manila," she said.
"The aircraft is on the ground and is currently being inspected."
A statement with more information would be released shortly, she said.
Peter Gibson from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority told the ABC that initial reports indicated a problem with air pressure in the cabin.
"The pilot has some pressurisation warnings about a door on the left hand side of the aircraft, but exactly what went wrong is still being determined," he said.
Passengers on the flight say the plane plunged about 20,000 feet after a door apparently "popped" mid-flight.
Qantas passenger Brendan McClements, chief executive of the Victorian Major Events Company, said passengers realised something was wrong when they heard a big bang.
"We were flying out of Hong Kong, heard a very loud noise, a bang," Mr McClements told AAP from Manila.
"There was a sort of rapid expulsion of wind.
"It went out of the plane, the air got sucked out, the oxygen masks dropped down and we put them on.
"Where I was sitting wasn't ideal, by no means ideal.
"But actually it was very well handled by the Qantas staff - that is the thing that stood out to me.
"They did a very good job of keeping everyone calm, keeping it under control.
"We landed about an hour or so ago, and there was a very large hole that wasn't there when we took off in Hong Kong."
Mr McClements said he could not be sure if the hole was where a door once was.
"But you could see into the plane from the outside, you could see bags inside.
"It was not what I expected when I got on the plane."
Steve Purvinas, federal secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, said it would not speculate on a possible cause.
"We just hope that Qantas and CASA investigate the matter promptly and if necessary take all steps to ensure that the rest of the Qantas fleet is safe to fly," Mr Purvinas said.
Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon said the flight had "a hole in its fuselage" and was being inspected.
"The flight, which originated in London, landed in Manila about 11.15am local time," Mr Dixon said in a statement.
"All 346 passengers and 19 crew disembarked normally and there were no reports of any injuries to passengers or crew."
Mr Dixon said the flight crew had performed emergency procedures after oxygen masks were deployed.
Qantas has provided all passengers with accommodation and a replacement aircraft has been arranged, he said.
Qantas engineers were on their way to Manila.
The Australian Transportation Safety Bureau (ATS and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) had been notified of the incident, he said.