Monday, April 23, 2012

Emotions high as blast-hit Qantas plane returns

From the Himalayan: Emotions high as blast-hit Qantas plane returns

SYDNEY: Qantas chief Alan Joyce said it was an emotional moment to see an Airbus A380 that lost an engine in a mid-air blast off Singapore in 2010 finally back in Australia.

More than 500 days after the incident that led to the temporary grounding of the Australian flag carrier's entire fleet of A380 super jumbos, the plane touched down at Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport.

Joyce said seeing the jet, which was the first double-decker superjumbo to join the Qantas fleet and named Nancy Bird-Walton in honour of Australia's first female commercial pilot, back on home base was special.

"It's very emotional," he told Australian Associated Press on board the plane, which flew from Singapore after repairs that cost Aus$139 million ($144 million) and involved the replacement of all four engines.

"It shouldn't be -- it is only an aircraft, as somebody said to me -- but I think it is more than an aircraft. It's our reputation, our history.

"Anybody that knew Nancy Bird-Walton knew what an amazing aviation legend she was.

"She was there for the naming of the aircraft, so for us I suppose it was very emotional getting this fixed, getting Qantas's flagship back in the air."

After an engine exploded over the Indonesian island of Batam in November 2010, pilots managed to guide the plane back to Singapore's Changi airport, where it landed trailing a plume of smoke.

Australian safety investigators have said an oil leak in a turbine caused the blast, which left debris scattered over Batam.

All four engines were replaced as advised by Rolls-Royce. The repairs, which involved 170 Airbus staff from eight nations, were carried out at the hangar of SIA Engineering, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines.

Joining Joyce on the journey to Sydney were pilots Captain Richard de Crespigny and Captain Dave Evans, who were on the blast-hit flight, as well as 16 of the 22 cabin crew from that flight.

AAP said there were cheers and tears on board as the plane landed and passed through a water cannon salute on its way to the arrival gate.

The plane will make its first commercial flight on April 28 from Sydney to Hong Kong.

"I have absolute, complete confidence in this aircraft," said de Crespigny.

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