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Outcry over suggestions Qantas may ditch life rafts

May 26, 2014 Aviation, Headline News 4 Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Suggestions that Qantas may ditch life rafts from its aircraft to save money have triggered an immediate reaction from Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, who called on Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce to rule out any idea of getting rid of life rafts from the carrier’s Boeing 737-800s.

Xenophon said he had received written confirmation from Qantas staff that the carrier is considering removing life rafts from B737s that fly less than 400 nautical miles from land, “the minimum standard specified by CASA regulations”.

Senior Qantas sources, however, told eGlobal Travel Media the issue was a storm in a teacup because the routes being considered for the move were over land, not sea. The opposition, meaning Virgin Australia, had long since adopted the same policy, the sources said.

It is hard to think of any compelling reason why an aircraft should carry life rafts on a flight between, say, Brisbane and Alice Springs.

Qantas has stressed that it has not made a final decision on the matter. It reiterated that it would never consider any action that would compromise the safety of passengers.

One estimate is that the move would save about AUD 1 million a year in fuel.

Xenophon said Qantas cabin crew had received a new safety manual that foreshadowed, for the first time, a “no life rafts scenario” in the event of a ditch in the sea.

Xenophon pointed out that Jetstar carried life rafts on its Airbus A320 aircraft, as the emergency slides carried in the doors converted to life rafts in the event of a sea ditching.

The same, however, also seems to be the case with the B737. The Revised B737 Ditching Procedures bulletin issued by Qantas on 22 May 2014 states: “The detached escape slide [of the forward doors] may also be used as an additional flotation aid in a ditching.”

Xenophon said that Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce and his board “still don’t get it – the reason Qantas is one of the world’s great airlines is that it goes above minimum requirements on safety.

“Brand Qantas has been all about doing more than the minimum required, but Alan Joyce is whittling away that advantage. Qantas pilots and crew I have spoken to are aghast that Qantas is even considering this.”

As for savings of AUD 1 million a year, Xenophon said that sum was “chicken feed when you compare the AUD 4 million a month Qantas admits it is losing on Jetstar Hong Kong aircraft stuck on the tarmac in France due to its failure to get approval to fly in Asia”.

Xenophon said on Friday that Qantas cabin crew had been provided with a new manual “which, for the first time, opens the way for domestic 737-800s to ditch in the ocean without carrying the usual four life rafts for up to 193 passengers and crew.

“The new manual, issued yesterday and in force from June 4, confusingly instructs cabin crew to decide whether life rafts are necessary and to deploy them ‘if carried’,” Xenophon said in an issued statement.

“In the case of life rafts not being carried, it instructs cabin crew to tell passengers to ‘jump into the water (and) swim away’.”

Written by Peter Needham

Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. Mark Stewart says:

    I have been way out to sea on landings into BNE and SYD from N.T. This seems absurd to me, since any aircraft in the fleet can easily be redeployed on say SYD/AKL etc.

  2. Phil Nesbitt says:

    Tasmania is 240km from the nearest mainland port, well under 400km. What happens when passengers pitch and roll in Bass Strait? We don’t have to worry though, as The Spirit of Australia has deserted the ACT, NT, and Tasmania. Like Asia and New Zealand; those routes are proudly flown by outsourced, imported non union labour of Jetstar, QantsLink, and Qantas New Zealand – where Vietnamese cabin crew earn AUD$40 per month. Shame Qantas used to stand for what was Australian – A fare go!

  3. Robert Ng says:

    This reminds me of my days as an Airman firstly in the Vietnamese Air Force; and later with Australian Airlines, (QANTAS Domestic,) then flying the new Airbus from Perth to Sydney. It is not an overland route like Sydney to Perth on tradewinds, as you may think – but a V pointed flight plan directly into the Southern Ocean towards Antarctica and back. to the mainline very low on fuel reserves due to company weight and fuel burn policied. We never ditched in the sea, but I remember NOTAMS and ditties posted in our pigeon holes at the hangar in Perth, especially:

    “Golly this sector, by Hector!!
    First heading SouthEast this vector,
    Eventually it will turn cold, or you will see ice,
    Heading then NorthEast, more fuel would be nice!”

    I can offer and add to current day passengers of QANTAS; “If it don’t float, make your journey by boat!”

    Capt. Robert Ng (Ret.)

  4. Jen Wilson says:

    I failed my 25 metre swimming certificate at school, no way I can swim 400 kilometres back to shore!

    I’m going by train next time, thanks for the heads up on Qantas, they have just gone and fed the roo meat to the dogs over the past few decades.

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