Qantas Boss Slams Union For 'Misrepresenting Facts' As Three Planes Are Grounded
Qantas has pulled three of its Boeing 737 aircraft from service after cracks were discovered in the wing structure during safety checks.
The airline ordered an inspection of all 33 of it's 737s this week after structural cracks were discovered in one plane during a scheduled maintenance check.
Further safety inspections revealed two more planes were also affected.
The hairline cracks were found in the "pickle fork" structure, the area of the plane between the wing and the fuselage that holds up the wings.
The damaged aircrafts have all be grounded are expected to be back in the air by the end of the year.
Qantas said it is working with the Civil Aviation Authority and Boeing to resolve the issue.
"It is a complex process. We expect it to take through to the end of the calendar year to get those three aircraft flying again," Qantas Domestic Chief Executive Andrew David told reporters on Friday.
He slammed calls from the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association on Thursday to ground all planes due to safety concerns, labelling them irresponsible.
"We are very disappointed. That completely misrepresented the facts," he said.
"Why didn't that union official call for [Virgin] to ground their fleet as well? Why was it only Qantas? Why not work with the regulators if you have genuine safety concerns? Why not come to us?" David continued.
The airline insists the aircrafts in the spotlight had never put traveller safety at risk.
"Let me be very, very clear... Qantas will never fly a plane if we do not believe it is safe to do so," David said.
"Our entire reputation -- our brand -- is built on our safety record. All of our engineers come to work every day with safety as our top priority".
Qantas Head of Engineering Chris Snook confirmed that the hairline cracks did not affect the integrity of the aircraft structure.
"There's redundancy built into that structure -- it is not compromised," he said on Friday.
The US Federal Aviation Administration earlier this month ordered airlines to check any 737s that had completed more than 30,000 take-offs and landings, known as cycles, for cracks.
Any that had completed more than 22,600 cycles needed to be checked within seven months. Qantas completed the inspection of its entire affected fleet in seven days.
Virgin Australia said it had already inspected 19 of its Boeing 737s and no cracks were found.
Boeing announced 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.