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Tuesday, 11 February 1986
Page: 95

(Question No. 515)


Senator Jones asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aviation, upon notice, on 10 September 1985:

(1) Has the attention of the Minister for Aviation been drawn to a segment in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation television program, ``The Investigators'' in which it was reported on 4 September 1985 that three international airlines, British Airways, KLM and Thai International adopted a ``modification'' from the American Boeing Company for its 747 aircraft.

(2) Did this so-called ``modification'' consist of reducing the emergency exit doors from 10 to 8 by eliminating the two doors over the wings on each side of the aircraft to accommodate 12 extra seats, thus making the aircraft ``more commercially viable''.

(3) Has the Thai International company had second thoughts on this matter and remodified the ``modification'' to go back to the original design in the interests of aircraft and passenger safety.

(4) Has any consideration been given by the Qantas company to adopt the obviously safety reducing ``modification'' to its 747 aircraft.

(5) Will consideration be given to banning the modified planes in the interests of airline, airport, and passenger safety, particularly in view of the recent spate of international aircraft accidents, notably the one in August 1985 at Ringway, Manchester in which exit emergency doors were of vital importance in the saving of many lives and in view of the fact the KLM and British Airways constantly fly their 747 Boeing aircraft into and out of Australia.


Senator Gietzelt —The Minister for Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) My attention has been drawn to the segment in the ABC program ``The Investigators''.

I understand that British Airways and Thai International are at least two airlines which have taken up the option for modifications to Boeing 747 aircraft.

(2) The basic Boeing 747 aircraft is fitted with eleven emergency exits to cater for up to 550 passengers. However the US certification requirement for 747s configured for international use, carrying only 440 passengers, permits a minimum of nine emergency exits.

Boeing has offered an interior configuration to airlines whereby two overwing exits are de-activated, and extra seats are placed next to these exits.

(3) The Department of Aviation has no detailed knowledge of subsequent action which may have been taken by Thai International in regard to the modification.

(4) I am advised that Qantas has considered the option but decided to retain the extra emergency exits.

(5) The Department of Aviation accepts that those modified Boeing 747 aircraft operated into Australia by airlines of other Contracting States to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) meet the internationally accepted safety requirements. It would not be appropriate in these circumstances to refuse access to Australia by these aircraft.