Pilots approved for safety checks

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Pilots approved for safety checks

May 03, 2004

AUSTRALIA'S aviation watchdog says it has no problem with Jetstar pilots performing pre-flight mechanical safety checks on their aircraft when the budget carrier takes to the air on May 25.

Launching a public safety campaign today, the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALEA) said it was concerned that passenger safety would be compromised if pilots, rather than engineers, conducted pre-flight safety inspections.

ALEA federal secretary David Kemp said asking a pilot to take on the job was akin to asking a bus driver to perform the work of a mechanic.

But Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokesman Peter Gibson said the practice had been in use in Australia for four years and was in line with maintenance guidelines issued for Jetstar's fleet.

Mr Gibson said Jetstar's Boeing 717 fleet, and the Airbus A320 aircraft it would soon be soon phasing in, required only a visual inspection, not a full engineering check, between flights.

This was in line with maintenance guidelines from both manufacturers, and pilots would receive special training for the task.

The Boeing 717 planes had been safely maintained under the same regime by their previous owners, Impulse Airlines and Qantas Link, for the past four years, Mr Gibson said.

“To use David's (Mr Kemp's) analogy, it's no different to asking a bus driver to walk around a bus to check the tyres are in good condition, that there's no obvious damage and that there are no fuel or oil leaks,” he said.

Pilots would perform no repair work on aircraft beyond replacing a few specified light globes in the cockpit, Mr Gibson said.

“Anything more complex must be done by an engineer,” he said.

Mr Kemp said billboards drawing attention to the issue had been erected at Melbourne and Sydney airports today and the association had also launched a “Jetsafe” website advising travellers about their safety concerns.

He said a similar campaign 18 months ago had forced Virgin Blue to reinstate engineers' safety inspections after it initially adopted a similar safety regime.

Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway said the safety checks met stringent safety standards set by the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority.

“We are dealing with very technically advanced aircraft. These aircraft alert people to problems if there are problems,” he said.

Safety was a paramount concern for the airline and the engineers' concerns were not valid, Mr Westaway said.

“We would not undertake any practice that would compromise the safety of aircraft or the safety of passengers.”

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