Qantas guilty of airport safety breaches
By Jeff Waters
Updated February 28, 2012 21:26:29
It has emerged that safety authorities upheld five safety complaints against Qantas last year at Brisbane airport.
ABC News has obtained a letter, signed by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s executive manager of operations, which reveals five of nine safety complaints against the airline were substantiated.
It all began in late 2010 when workers at Qantas’s Q Catering facility in Brisbane began complaining about a series of issues relating to the movement and maintenance of catering vehicles on and around the airport tarmac.
The complaints eventually made their way to CASA, which subsequently investigated them, but the exact details of the events were not made public.
Former Q Catering worker Wayne Bailey, who recently took voluntary redundancy from the company, says there were a number of worrying examples.
“It was the trucks we were more dealing with,” he said. “They’re heavy trucks, they’re quite large trucks like you have on the road.
“The airport corporation rules state that all vehicles on the airport should be roadworthy.
“We had trucks that the front brakes locked up and they dived off to the left or right. We had trucks that the rear demisters didn’t work, which if you are working at two o’clock in the morning on a rainy day and you have no demisters you can’t see you’re trying to reverse and manoeuvre around the tarmac and around million-dollar aircraft; billion-dollar aircraft, and it was dangerous.”
“We filled in the report forms and everything that we are supposed to do that was Qantas procedure – time and time again they were basically fobbed off and ignored.”
It all follows claims last week that the airline had breached engineering safety guidelines by surprising staff with its recent announcement of a major restructure, and revelations CASA was talking to the airline about those changes.
No-one from Qantas was available for an interview on the Brisbane airport incidents, but in a statement a spokesman said the issues at the airport were minor and only related to a few catering vehicles.
In fact, he said, they were so minor in nature that CASA deemed they were not safety issues which required any directives on Qantas.
The Transport Workers Union, which brought the complaints and which has been in a long-running industrial dispute with Qantas, says no action was taken because, in the words of assistant Queensland branch secretary Scott Connolly, the two organisations are too close.
“I think the relationship between CASA and this particular company, Qantas, is far too cosy,” he said.
“The evidence we’ve seen paints a picture where the company has absolute disclosure with the safety agency that isn’t shared with members of the public or interested parties in the industry.
“These were critical safety instances. We had situations where aircraft were at risk of trucks ploughing into them…fully laden with passengers and it’s a terrifying indictment upon our system where our safety agency is saying that’s not serious.”
A CASA spokesman said the incidents were isolated in nature, that there were no contraventions of aviation safety regulations, and that the organisation did discuss its findings with Qantas.
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