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Friday, 23 August 1985
Page: 293


Senator MAGUIRE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aviation. I refer to the tragedy yesterday involving a Boeing 737 airliner at Manchester Airport in the United Kingdom, apparently caused by an explosion in one of the aircraft's engines. In view of the fact that 12 of these aircraft with the same engines operate in Australia and that similar engines power other domestic airliners, what actions are the Australian air safety authorities taking to monitor the United Kingdom accident inquiry in order to ensure that Australia's enviable and unparalleled air safety record is maintained?


Senator GIETZELT —I think all honourable senators will be shocked at the rapidity of major aircraft disasters occurring in many parts of the world. The latest one that took place yesterday in the United Kingdom involved an aircraft type similar to that used by Ansett Airlines of Australia. The engine which apparently failed is the same type as that used in the Australian Boeing 737 and 727 and the McDonnell Douglas DC9 aircraft. I understand that at a late stage in the take-off roll the port engine failed as a result of an uncontained turbine failure which resulted in an intense fire. The pilot aborted the take-off and the aircraft skidded off the runway in an attempt to prevent the tragedy that subsequently occurred. However, as a result of that there was an extensive fuel spillage and the fire spread very rapidly through the passenger section. There were many casualties in the rear part of the cabin, which indicates the difficulties about airline travel because following the previous tragedy some people had suggested that was the safest place.

The Australian record in aircraft safety is of a very high standard. There has not been a major aircraft disaster in Australia for more than 17 years. In respect of maintaining that important safety record, the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation has dispatched a senior officer to Manchester in the United Kingdom to observe and assist in the management of the investigation there and to provide first hand feedback of information to the Department of Aviation so that that information can be fed on to the respective airline companies in Australia which use the same type of aircraft and the same type of engine in the functioning of their airlines.