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Tuesday, 11 February 1986
Page: 33


Senator FOREMAN —I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Aviation to the report in the Australian on Monday, 10 February entitled: `Nose weakness find may force grounding of 747s'. That article suggested that a large contingent of Boeing 747 aircraft, estimated at a quarter of those currently in service, may suffer from a weakness which could render the aircraft unsafe or not airworthy. Have all the 747s currently in service with Qantas Airways Ltd been checked for this possible problem? If not, will they be checked as urgently as possible?


Senator GIETZELT —I am aware of the recent reports of cracks having been found in overseas operated 747 aircraft. I can understand the world wide concern about air safety in respect of 747s. Following reports of the cracks in the frame of the forward passenger cabin in several aircraft the Boeing aircraft company in September 1985 recommended modifications of the aircraft. Further inspections and discoveries now indicate that those modifications were not sufficiently effective. On 1 February 1986, just a few days ago, the United States Federal Aviation Administration issued an airworthiness directive which required operators to undertake urgent inspections of aircraft with high service times and to ground all aircraft in which cracks were found pending detailed inspection of the frames, and where necessary of course to make essential repairs.

I am advised by our Department of Aviation that on 4 February it issued a similar airworthiness directive to all operators of Boeing 747s. Five Qantas aircraft have spent sufficient time in service to require inspection. Inspections are almost completed and no cracking has been found in any Australian aircraft. The last aircraft is being inspected today and I assume that the statement I have just made will apply to all of the five aircraft and that they will meet that airworthiness directive. The departmental engineers maintain contact with the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States and Boeing and Qantas on the problem and more extensive inspection procedures are being developed by the Boeing company. They will be introduced as appropriate to resolve the obvious problems that have existed in the past. The Australian administration is taking all necessary steps to see that we maintain the high level of air safety which is characteristic of Australian airlines.