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Smoke in cockpit forces latest Qantas turnback

written by australianaviation.com.au | November 15, 2010

A file image of VH-OEI. (Andrew McLaughlin)

A Qantas 747-400ER operating QF17 from Sydney to Buenos Aires on November 15 returned to Sydney after experiencing what the airline describes as an “issue with the aircraft’s electrical system”.

Qantas says engineers are inspecting the 747, VH-OEI, to determine the cause of the issue. The aircraft took off at 11:11am and landed safely at 1:22pm after the crew issued a PAN and dumped fuel to bring it below its maximum landing weight. The aircraft was met by ARFF tenders on landing, which escorted the aircraft gate under standard procedures.

“During the climb, the crew detected smoke in the cockpit,” the ATSB, which has opened an investigation, reports on its website. “The crew donned oxygen and conducted an emergency descent.” One report says only emergency lighting operated in the main cabin.

Qantas noted that reports that the aicraft had lost cabin pressure are “incorrect”. “Oxygen supply to the cabin was unaffected.”

The airline says three flightcrew, 18 cabin crew and 199 passengers were onboard. A replacement flight is scheduled to depart later this afternoon.


One of six 747-400ERs in the Qantas fleet, VH-OEI is a relatively young aircraft, built and delivered to Qantas in 2003.

The QF17 incident follows a separate incident where a Qantas 767-300ER operating QF768 on November 12 from Perth to Melbourne returned to Perth after experiencing vibration in one of its GE CF6 engines about 15 minutes into the flight.

“This is a vibration. It wasn’t engine failure. It wasn’t anything significant. This should be regarded as a minor issue,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told reporters. “This would happen hundreds, if not thousands of times, around the world each year.”

Reporting of that incident largely overshadowed Qantas’s black tie 90th anniversary gala dinner that night.

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