A Qantas plane takes off from the Sydney International airport on May 6, 2021. (SAEED KHAN / AFP)
MELBOURNE, Australia - Australia's national carrier Qantas confirmed on Thursday that a flight to Fiji was forced to return to Sydney Airport as a precaution to a potential mechanical issue, which marked the third mid-air scare that the airline reported within a month.
On Thursday morning, the QF101, which is a Boeing 737 aircraft, took off at about 8:32 am local time and spent almost two hours circling over the coast of New South Wales before landing in Sydney at about 11:00 am local time.
"Our Sydney to Fiji flight has returned to Sydney as a precaution after pilots received a fault indicator about a potential mechanical issue," a Qantas spokesperson told local media, adding that engineers will examine the aircraft.
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According to the spokesperson, the plane landed normally and it was not an emergency or priority landing.
In this file photo taken on Feb 28, 2022, an arriving Qantas Airbus A330 aircraft taxis at Auckland international airport, New Zealand. (DAVID ROWLAND / AFP)
Carrying 145 passengers, the plane touched down safely at Sydney airport, where it was met by dozens of ambulances, police and fire and rescue crews
One day earlier, flight QF144, a twin-jet Boeing 737-838, lost one of its two engines in mid-air from New Zealand's Auckland to Sydney. The pilots issued a mayday alert, an internationally-used distress call to signal a life-threatening emergency and it was later downgraded to a "PAN" (possible assistance needed).
Carrying 145 passengers, the plane touched down safely at Sydney airport, where it was met by dozens of ambulances, police and fire and rescue crews.
On Wednesday night, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) commenced a transport safety investigation into the in-flight engine failure incident and assigned a team of three experienced transport safety investigators, with experience in aircraft maintenance, aircraft operations, and data recovery, to collect evidence.
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"At the ATSB's request, the operator has quarantined the aircraft's cockpit voice and flight data recorders. Once downloaded, information from those recorders will be analyzed at the ATSB's technical facilities in Canberra," said ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell.
In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sandika McAuley, a passenger aboard Flight QF144, recalled that when she heard the notice, she realized something was wrong.
"It was just like a little bit of a bang, and then a little bit of turbulence, and that's it," she said. "We just thought OK, this is a bit weird."
In this file photo taken on Nov 1, 2021, travelers wait in line after verifying their COVID-19 vaccination status as they check-in for a flight to Sydney, Australia on Qantas Airways Ltd inside the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California. (PATRICK T. FALLON / AFP)
Qantas has been awarded the world's safest airline for 2023 by AirlineRatings.com, but a spate of controversies have also been arising over the aviation company
Before Christmas, a Qantas flight made an emergency landing in Azerbaijan on Dec 23, 2022. The A380 flight QF1 was forced to land at Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku and was met by emergency services on arrival after making a 180-degree turn.
The aircraft was scheduled to arrive at London's Heathrow Airport after leaving Singapore's Changi Airport just after midnight.
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"Our flight from Singapore to London has made an unscheduled landing at Baku Airport in Azerbaijan after pilots received an intermittent fault indicator in the cockpit," said a spokeswoman from the airline.
Qantas has been awarded the world's safest airline for 2023 by AirlineRatings.com, but a spate of controversies have also been arising over the aviation company.
"It hasn't been clear skies for Qantas of late. A faulty fire sensor in a cargo hold saw an A380 make an emergency landing and a load of passengers make an unexpected stopover in Azerbaijan just before Christmas," former Qantas captain David Evans wrote in an opinion released on Thursday.
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"On the ground, things haven't been much better, with criticism of management putting share price before passengers, as well as luggage issues, delays and post-COVID customer service complaints," he added.