20 September 2008

In-Flight Emergency Involving a Qantas 747-400 Near Manila on 25 July 2008

Welcome to the Conversation at AirSafe.com, with your host Dr. Todd Curtis. This is show #56 - In-Flight Emergency Involving a Qantas 747-400 Near Manila on 25 July 2008

The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Hong Kong to Melbourne, Australia. While over the South China Sea at about 29,000 feet, the aircraft experienced an explosive decompression event.

The crew descended about 20,000 feet, and then diverted to Manila, which was about 200 miles away at the time. None of the 346 passengers or 19 crew members were injured.

Only after the aircraft arrived did the crew and passengers become aware of the extent of the damage. An area just in front of the right wing root, about three meters square, was damaged, and part of the fuselage skin was missing, exposing baggage in the forward cargo area.

According to some of the passengers, there was a loud, explosive type of sound, followed by a rapid decompression.

The incident is still under investigation, and so far, no cause has been ruled in or ruled out. Possible causes include metal fatigue, some kind of aircraft malfunction, or an explosive device.

There have been many previous instances where portions of an airlinerÕs fuselage separated in flight. Three of the more prominent events include an April 1988 accident where an Aloha Airlines 737 lost part of the upper fuselage in cabin area, and one flight attendant was killed.

In December of the same year, a bomb exploded in the cargo compartment of a Pan Am 747, which led to a significant loss of fuselage skin followed by an inflight breakup, killing all 259 on board as well as 11 on the ground. In February 1989, a cargo door and part of the fuselage of a United 747 separated from the aircraft, and nine passengers were sucked out of the aircraft to their deaths.

The Philippine government is leading the investigation of the recent Qantas event, with help from representatives from civil aviation authorities in Australia and the United States, and representatives from Boeing and Qantas.

Updates or findings from the investigation will be posted on AirSafe.com as they become available.

Thanks for listening, and I'll see you next time.

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