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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1206

Senator MAGUIRE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aviation. I refer to the difficulties experienced by Trans Australia Airlines flight 24 from Melbourne to Adelaide on Tuesday last week, when the aircraft cabin apparently depressurised, with passengers experiencing bleeding from the ears and other medical problems. Has the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation prepared a report on this incident, which apparently was followed by a rapid descent from 20,000 to 7,000 feet? If so, what are the findings of the report? Was the aircraft one of those which were refurbished in recent years , including installation of new pressurisation systems? Is it proposed to upgrade medical facilities at Australian airports as a result of the events which unfolded near Melbourne last week?

Senator GIETZELT —It is true that on a DC9 flight from Melbourne to Adelaide on 25 September last a problem of depressurisation took place, which did create a great amount of distress both to the passengers and a section of the crew. Oxygen masks were deployed in flight as a result of the fluctuating cabin pressure. Consequently the aircraft was required to descend and return to Melbourne. However, I am assured that at no time during the flight was there any danger to the aircraft. Having said that, I must say that on the evidence available to the Government a considerable amount of discomfort and distress was caused to passengers. One of the lessons we should appreciate is that when incidents such as this occur-fortunately they occur on very odd occasions-many of us tend to take as routine what is to happen. It is claimed that when this circumstance did take place on the aircraft not all were aware of their responsibilities. I am advised that some 12 passengers reported ear problems and other cases of distress, and that they received treatment from the airport medical staff.

Naturally the aviation industry in Australia, which has a very good reputation in respect of aircraft safety, regarded the incident as one which required immediate investigation, and a report will shortly be available to both TAA and the Government about the incident. However, I am able to provide the honourable senator with the assurance that steps will be taken to ensure that everybody is aware of what should happen should a similar occurence take place in the future. I am also able to tell him that the aircraft concerned was not one in which a new pressurisation system had recently been installed. All I can say is that whilst we recognise that the incident did take place, and we recognise the degree of distress, the Department of Aviation will be taking every step to ensure that a similar incident will not take place in the future.