CANBERRA: Air safety investigators confirmed on Friday that an exploding oxygen cylinder ripped a gaping hole in a Qantas jet’s fuselage midflight last month, but said they were no closer to solving the mystery of why the tank failed.
Julian Walsh, acting executive director of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, released an interim report on an ongoing investigation of the emergency aboard a Boeing 747-438 aircraft, carrying 365 people, over the South China Sea on July 25 almost an hour after takeoff from Hong Kong.
The crew quickly descended to an altitude of 3,000 m, where oxygen masks were no longer needed, and safely landed at the Philippine capital’s airport despite the loss of crucial flight instruments. No one was injured.
The jet remains in Manila, where a physical examination for clues to the cause of the near-disaster has been completed.
Friday’s report confirmed early findings that one of seven emergency oxygen cylinders below the cabin floor had exploded, causing the emergency. Walsh said the investigation is now focussed on pinpointing the cause.
He said the investigation will likely continue for months and declined to say whether finding the cause was possible. The 12-kg steel cylinder, pressurised to 1,850 pounds per square inch (12,755 kilopascals), “sustained a failure that allowed a sudden and complete release of the pressurised contents,” Mr. Walsh said.
The explosion blew a hole in the fuselage 202 cm wide and 152 cm high, the report said. Mr. Walsh said the cylinder had undergone its regulation three-yearly safety inspection shortly before it was installed in the jet six weeks before it exploded.
Since the emergency, Qantas had completed its fleet-wide inspection of oxygen cylinders without identifying any problems, he said.
Qantas released a statement, backing the preliminary report’s findings. — AP