Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Passenger Flight Overloaded With Freight Says Safety Regulator

Qantas Cited In Investigation
Shipping News Feature

AUSTRALIA – The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) have issued the result of their investigation of a ‘weight and balance event’ which occurred when unplanned freight was loaded aboard a Qantas Airbus A330‑303 aircraft on the 6th March 2009. The cargo was stowed aboard the plane for dispatch on a scheduled international passenger service between Sydney, New South Wales and Hong Kong.

Operational changes prior to the aircraft's dispatch required an adjustment of the planned load, with the load controller electing to offload a pallet of freight originally scheduled for that flight, and substituting it with another pallet in the load management system. The load instructions were not altered and resulted in the aircraft exceeding its structural maximum taxi weight by 384 kg and the maximum structural take-off weight by about 884 kg. It also resulted in the flight crew entering inaccurate centre of gravity and zero fuel weight data into a number of the aircraft's systems.

Nobody picked up the error when the final manifest check was completed and handed to the aircrew and due to delays in notification the aircraft operated another 10 sectors before maintenance inspections for an overweight taxi were completed.

Qantas have since assured the ATSB that they have implemented several changes to the process for managing load control activities including individuals responsible for each stage signing off important ramp and load control communications; the appointment of a load control standards officer; and the conduct of a training needs analysis for load control officers.

Given public trepidation after the incidents involving explosives found in cargo carried aboard scheduled passenger flights in last years Yemeni bomb plot, such incidents are guaranteed to engender even more mistrust amongst the travelling public, particularly when a carrier such as Qantas with a better safety record than most airlines of such size is involved.

Photo: Qantas Airbus A330-303 VH-QPJ on finals into Singapore Changi Airport courtesy and copyright of Julian Lau.