Qantas chief denies holed jumbo was a 'rust bucket'

A Qantas jumbo jet forced to make an emergency landing in Manila with a "van-sized" hole in the fuselage had serious corrosion, it was claimed yesterday.

Entries on an online aviation forum going back to February revealed that rust had been found during a refurbishment of the 17-year-old aircraft. One of the posts spoke of "serious corrosion issues" that had delayed its launch date back into service.

"Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope OJK [the aircraft's identification] recovers from her plastic surgery," the forum writer added.

The allegations, which emerged as passengers from the 747-400 arrived in Melbourne yesterday, threatened further damage to the image of Australia's national airline, which is in the midst of a public relations disaster as film and photographs of the mid-air drama and the gaping fuselage circulate around the world.

Australian newspapers described the stricken jumbo as a "rust bucket", a claim vehemently denied by Qantas's chief executive, Geoff Dixon, who said reports of corrosion contributing to the incident should be discounted.

Mr Dixon said corrosion commonly occurred in some parts of all planes, but he insisted there was no evidence of it at the site of the hole in the fuselage.

Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority last night supported him. "Speculation in some quarters of corrosion found in the aircraft earlier this year can in no way be related to this accident," said its spokesman, Peter Gibson.

Australian investigators arrived in Manila yesterday to inspect the plane, which was left with a hole measuring about 6ft by 12ft in its fuselage, close to the wing.

The cause of the rupture is still unknown, although metal fatigue or an internal explosion caused by a pressurised container in a passenger's baggage have both been put forward as possible theories.

Relieved passengers arriving in Melbourne spoke of hearing a loud bang, which was followed by a gust of wind through the cabin and oxygen masks dropping from the ceiling.

One woman said part of the plane's flooring gave way, exposing the cargo area. As the plane lost altitude, passengers feared the worst.

David Saunders, of Melbourne, thought he was going to die. "The plane just started to dive, and I thought we were going down into the sea," he said. "I just grabbed my passport out of my bag and put it in my pocket, so that if my body was found they could identify it quicker."

Australian newspapers commended Captain John Bartels and his crew for saving the lives of more than 300 passengers. Qantas, which has never lost an aircraft, has one of the best safety records of any airline, but there have been serious incidents in recent years, including a mains power failure that forced a Qantas 747 to make an emergency landing in Bangkok in January. Recent cost-cutting in the quest for greater efficiency and higher profits has also led to questions about the impact on safety.

Suggested Topics

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage

nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Norwegian Speaking Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 per annum + competitive OTE: SThree: Progressive in Manchester is seeki...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Telecoms Engineer - Telecoms Administrator - London - £26,000

£26000 per annum + 25 days holiday & further benefits: Ashdown Group: Telecomm...

Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are seeking a confident...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London