Friday, 20 May 2011

Qantas flight in mid-air engine shut down

SYDNEY — A Qantas jet was stranded in Bangkok Friday after crew were forced to shut down one engine, the latest headache for an airline troubled by rising costs and the threat of strikes.

The Boeing 747 carrying 308 passengers had been bound for London, but turned back to the Thai capital shortly after take-off after pilots shut down one of its four engines due to "an increase in vibration and high temperatures".

"The pilots shut down this engine and as a precaution returned to Bangkok," a Qantas spokesman said.

"The aircraft can safely fly on three engines and it had a normal landing in Bangkok not long afterwards.

"We believe the cause is similar to events that other airlines are experiencing and is subject to an increased monitoring program from the manufacturer Rolls Royce."

The incident comes as Qantas faces strike action by some of its employees, including pilots, at the same time as it grapples with high fuel prices and a non-performing international business.

Qantas pilots said Friday the airline was pressuring them to take on less fuel to help save costs, amid an industry belief that long-held fuel allocation ratios should be lowered given improved accuracy in weather and traffic forecasts.

Captain Richard Woodward, vice president of the Australian and International Pilots Association, told ABC radio that Qantas printed out a chart for its pilots showing how much fuel they ordered and how much they landed with.

Woodward said there was a "subtle pressure to make sure that you only carry the minimum necessary."

"They certainly say to us they would prefer not to carry extra fuel because it's outrageously expensive," he added.

On Tuesday a Melbourne-bound flight from Singapore to Melbourne was diverted to Adelaide after crew discovered the Airbus A380 running low on fuel. The plane is thought to have burned more fuel than expected due to bad weather.

Qantas rejected the claim, saying captains were responsible for their fuel order and the airline did not attempt to influence that decision in any way.

"All Qantas flights operate with appropriate fuel based on extremely detailed flight planning and forecast flying conditions," the spokesman said, adding that pilots were encouraged to closely monitor "discretionary fuel uplift".

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