'Completely Irresponsible': Qantas Engineer Slams Calls To Ground All 737s
The aviation engineering union is demanding Qantas ground all Boeing 737s after a crack was found in a second aircraft overnight.
The airline has ordered an inspection of all 33 of it's 737s after structural cracks were discovered in one plane during a scheduled maintenance check.
The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association confirmed that both cracks were at the "pickle fork" -- the area of the plane that holds up the wings.
"These aircraft should not be flying," ALAEA boss Steven Purvinas told the ABC.
"The area where the crack is takes the load off the wing and all the fuel it carries.
"As long as Qantas is unaware which aircraft do or don't have cracks, they should ground the entire fleet until they know which are safe to fly."
Qantas Head of Engineering, Chris Snook, has slammed the calls as "completely irresponsible", stressing that the cracks do not compromise safety.
"We would never operate an aircraft unless it was completely safe to do so. Even when a crack is present, it does not immediately compromise the safety of the aircraft," he said in a statement to 10 daily.
Snook confirmed that under safety regulations in Australia and the United States, the checks need to be completed within seven months. Qantas will complete an inspection of its entire fleet by Friday.
"As other airlines have done when they have found cracks, Qantas will remove an aircraft from service so they can be repaired," he said.
According to aviation consultancy IBA, it can cost up to $400,000 to repair each aircraft.
The inspections come amid global concerns about cracks on some aircraft that had completed more than 30,000 take-offs and landings. Any Boeing 737 that has more than 22,600 cycles require inspection within the next 1000. Qantas confirmed that equates to seven months of flying.
"We have found one example of cracking in an aircraft with just under 27,000 cycles and this aircraft has been removed from service for repair," the airline said on Wednesday night, confirming there are no safety issues.
"Detailed analysis by Boeing shows that even where this crack is present, it does not immediately compromise the safety of the aircraft -- as indicated by the timeframe given by regulators to perform the checks," the statement continued.
A spokesperson on Thursday would not confirm to 10 daily how many cracks were found but insisted an update will be issued on Friday after the entire fleet is inspected.
Boeing announced earlier this month that 38 planes had been grounded worldwide following urgent checks.
The issue surfaced while the newer 737 MAX aircraft were in the spotlight following two deadly crashes.
Qantas' 737 fleet is used for domestic flights as well as shorter international services to New Zealand, Fiji and Indonesia.