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Concerns over plane safety in Australia -

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Concerns over plane safety in Australia

Sarah Dingle reported this story on Friday, February 12, 2010 12:18:00

ASHLEY HALL: Another Japanese manufacturing company is dealing with embarrassing safety questions.

The country's biggest maker of airline seats has admitted that it falsified seat safety tests.

Koito Industries has sold around 150,000 of the suspect passenger seats to major airlines,
including Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines and possibly to V Australia.

Sarah Dingle reports.

SARAH DINGLE: After a company employee blew the whistle, the president of Koito Industries Limited
this week formally apologised at a press conference in Japan.

He said the company and the management were responsible for the falsification of fire resistance
data for tens of thousands of airplane seats.

GEOFFREY THOMAS: It's very disturbing. In fact it's extremely disturbing because the seats are a
critical part of an aircraft.

SARAH DINGLE: Geoffrey Thomas is an industry expert and aviation editor for West Australian
newspapers.

GEOFFREY THOMAS: It's related to the fabric covering of the seats. There's a possibility that they
may not have passed the fire certification standard. Of critical importance is the fire retardancy
of the fabrics of the seats and the internal structure of the seats, the foam etc all have to meet
very rigorous standards, burn through standard, because one of the other major killers in an air
crash is the smoke.

SARAH DINGLE: Affected airlines include Japan based carriers but Geoffrey Thomas says concerns
stretch to Australia where some planes may also be affected, including some belonging to the new
international arm of Virgin Blue - V Australia.

GEOFFREY THOMAS: It affects Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airlines. It also I understand affects
one or two aircraft being delivered to Singapore Airlines, that's my understanding.

And I also understand it may affect V Australia, one or two of their aircraft. But that is still
being determined and the actual effect of this has to be worked through with the authorities.

It is very surprising because normally the Japanese are meticulous with their standards although
this is not the latest problem from Japan. We've had Honda and Toyota with big, with massive
recalls as well. So it comes at a time when a lot of question marks are being asked about the
standards.

Of course Japan Airlines just went into bankruptcy as well so brand Japan is really taking a
hammering at the moment.

SARAH DINGLE: A spokesman for the Federal Minister for Transport Anthony Albanese says although the
safety information for the seats was falsified, it's yet to be determined whether they're unsafe.

He said the Japanese Safety Bureau is currently investigating and if they do issue an air
worthiness directive the Civil Aviation Safety Authority in Australia will do the same.

When contacted Singapore Airlines declined to comment, referring all inquiries to the seat
manufacturer. Virgin Australia was unavailable for comment.

ASHLEY HALL: Sarah Dingle.