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Senator’s anger at Virgin emergency landing in Mildura

June 20, 2013 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59The emergency landing of a Virgin Australia plane at Mildura on a flight from Brisbane to Adelaide has been branded “a serious incident, which must be investigated urgently by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau”.

The Virgin Australia Boeing 737 from Brisbane to Adelaide was forced to land in Mildura by heavy fog which forced the closure of Adelaide Airport on Tuesday.

The fog rolled in across Mildura too, making landing so difficult that the plane had to make three attempts, running low on fuel in the process. 250x250px

Mildura Airport chief executive Bill Burke told Melbourne’s Age newspaper that the Virgin flight, carrying 85 passengers and six crew, had to pull out of two attempted landings.

He said the plane declared an emergency but was able to land safely.

Virgin Australia said the plane was met by emergency vehicles on landing as a precaution.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said the department had been notified that the unscheduled landing was due to “an emergency of low fuel”.

A Qantas plane flying from Sydney to Adelaide was also diverted to Mildura because of the same fog in Adelaide, but it landed without incident.

The ATSB must now decide whether to conduct a full investigation.

Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, says the ATSB should go further. Xenophon yesterday called for the ATSB’s chief commissioner, Martin Dolan, to step down.

Xenophon cited what he said was a damning Senate Committee report last month into airport safety, as well as the Mildura emergency landing.

He said the Virgin Australia pilots were forced to land in Mildura below regulated visibility levels.

“It was a serious incident, which must be investigated urgently by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau,” Xenophon said.

“It mirrors the circumstances leading up to Pel-Air accident in 2009, where the aircraft in that case encountered unforecast and rapidly-changing weather. That aircraft was forced to ditch into the sea. The Senate Inquiry into the incident was highly critical of the ATSB and the regulator CASA.

“Yesterday’s incident at Mildura highlights the issues raised by the Senate Inquiry.

“It is extraordinary that the ATSB has delayed considering the Senate report until its scheduled Committee meeting on July 24. The ATSB should convene an extraordinary committee meeting as a matter of urgency.

“The delay and lack of action following the Senate report reinforces my loss of confidence in Chief Commissioner Dolan.”

Written by : Peter Needham

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