Tech Forum

ESP fault locator
This article seems almost humorous when the use of the ESP devise is disallowed by the FAA — ha. Excuse me, if I can troubleshoot a system with any non-evasive device that will help me resolve a problem, believe me, I will use it.

OK, I will not record (log) just how the problem was found.
— Bob Bartell, Palm City, FL

Hangar Heroes
Bill O’Brien’s “Hangar Heroes” article in the April 2008 issue would have been much better if he had also given recognition to the four mechanics immediate managers other than just Larry Galarza. If it weren’t for the team of field service managers (Marco Cardenas —- TFE731; Wes Moreland — ALF502, Rolls-Royce Spey/Tay and the CF34, and Terry Huecker whose product line wasn’t even mentioned in article), who also know these product lines backwards and forwards inside and out, the mechanics wouldn’t be able to do their jobs as well as they do. Maybe AMT could do another article on the support that the field service managers give to the hard-working Dallas Airmotive field techs. The managers are on-call trouble shooting, moving guys from here to there 24/7 and organizing the next engine change, hot section, etc. and they don’t get overtime or air miles and the other perks that the techs do. The techs are extremely well compensated.
— Holly St. John

Response from Qantas
I am extremely concerned to read the article ‘Bad Air’ in your March issue, this item contained errors damaging to Qantas without any opportunity for comment from Qantas.

The most serious error relates to the number of aircraft affected. Only one aircraft was involved – not the 51 stated in the item!

The incident was quickly identified and rectified before the aircraft operated and the entire tank affected was purged and refilled with oxygen. The incident was a one off, yet all aircraft which had been serviced in Melbourne have been checked for oxygen purity. No other aircraft were found to be contaminated. These checks involved Qantas’ entire B747 and A330 fleet.

A number of statements in ‘Bad Air’ need to be corrected, these include:

  • The new nitrogen cart does not look “identical” to either the old or new oxygen carts — they are completely different colors;
  • The cart was not used on and off for 10 months in the wrong configuration. The incorrect configuration was only used in the one off incident;
  • The article states “that cockpit oxygen bottles are usually topped up every day or serviced at least a couple of times per week. That is why such a large number of aircraft were serviced with bad air in such a short time.” This is incorrect. Dependent on the sectors flown the average top ups for oxygen for Qantas operations is approximately three per month; and
  • Formal training was delivered before the carts were introduced into service and the original mechanics that bought the carts into service were also trained.

In summary, this was a one off incident. It was dealt with by the rigorous safety systems we have in place at Qantas. This incident is now used as an example to our staff of the importance of remaining vigilant at all times.

We have worked hard to achieve our reputation and your readers can be assured, that through continuous staff training and investment in infrastructure, Qantas will continue to strive to further develop our reputation of safety excellence.
— David Cox, Executive General Manager Engineering, Qantas Airlines

Bill O’Brien: Thank you for your comments on my article “Bad Air.” Since your job in corporate communications is to put Qantas in the best possible light I can see where you are concerned about my comments in my article which talks about the incident in which Qantas engineers (mechanics) serviced a B-747 pilot’s oxygen bottle with nitrogen.

I hold an A&P, IA, commercial pilot certificate. I worked in repair stations for 12 years before I went with the FAA in 1980 and worked 30 years as an FAA Aviation Safety Inspector. All in all, I have 45 years in aviation maintenance and I am still learning.

As I said in my March article, I am not in the blame game. I also said in that same article that Qantas has the best safety record in the world.

I do admit in December 2007 that I took the information about the incident from Australian news sources after I saw a news item about the incident in the Washington Post, a major newspaper here in Washington, D.C., area. The incident was picked up by all the world’s news sources and published a thousand times over before Christmas. So any potential damage to Qantas’ excellent safety reputation was done way before my article hit the streets in AMT magazine in March 2008.

If you step back and objectively read my article, I used the incident to teach airline and repair stations personnel how to perform a human factors analysis of the incident. If the incident happened to United or American Airlines, I would have used that airline as an example. So I want to assure you that I was not out to “get” Qantas airlines.

You say now that only one aircraft was affected, but no one disputes the fact that Qantas had to inspect 50 aircraft because engineers (mechanics) swapped nitrogen fittings on the nitrogen cart with oxygen fittings and that cart was in service for 10 months according to the media sources. New Zealand airline was also alerted of the incident. In December 2007, Qantas was dealing with a very big unknown, and it was smart of your airline to cover all the bases and inspect all the aircraft that flew out of Melboume Airport.

I do have a side question. Did the “inspection” of the 50 aircraft oxygen bottles include your engineers taking air samples from each of the 50 aircraft oxygen bottles and getting them tested in a lab for nitrogen/oxygen ratio or did the mechanics just vent each of the 50 aircraft bottles and service them with oxygen? If it was the latter, the problem with bad air was solved but Qantas and your Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) would never really know how many of the 50 aircraft pilot’s oxygen bottles were actually serviced with nitrogen.

But whether it was just one aircraft serviced with bad air or 50 aircraft, this time Qantas and the flying public were very lucky that a mechanic spotted the human factor error prior to the aircraft being released for service. Because that one aircraft in which the pilot’s oxygen bottle was serviced with nitrogen has approximately 350 passenger seats. Since the potential for a major problem existed, I cannot understand how you considered that this human factor error was just a minor incident.

So the discussion we are having really revolves around the fact of whether or not servicing the aircraft(s) with nitrogen was a serious or minor incident.

I will apologize in writing if I offended Qantas. I would even include the statement that I would fly Qantas if I ever get down your way. However, I want to see proof in writing that Qantas and the Australian

Transport Safety Bureau consider this a minor incident.

Please send me Qantas’ actual risk assessment of the incident and your ATSB evaluation for my review. I do not want a Qantas press release. I want to see documented proof and a contact number of the person in Qantas who signed the assessment and a name and a contact number at the ATSB who investigated the incident. If the risk assessment and your ATSB say it is a minor incident that did not affect airworthiness and safety along with the associated factual proof, then sir you will get your apology.

If as I believe, Qantas risk assessment and your ATSB says that the incident if left undiscovered was potentially very serious and in order to prevent it from happening again Qantas had to put in additional safeguards, then my article stands.

Bert Kinner
I was very interested to read the feature in October 2007 issue of AMT; it was Bert Kinner: The ups and downs, His aircraft and power plants, Part 2 by Giacinta Bradley Koontz. It was a very interesting article and I would love to read Part 1. Unfortunately I missed the AMT issue in which it was published (September 2007). Would it be possible to have a copy of Part 1? I would be so grateful if you could help?
— John Thompson, UK

Editor: Articles are available from our website under Article Archives. You can search by title, issue, or author.

Our apologies to Heritage Turbine who provided images for the Turbine Technology Sulfidation article in the May 2008 issue. We regret the omission.