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First officer sues Qantas for PTSD after 717 engine failure

written by Adam Thorn | March 16, 2021
BOEING-717-QANTAS-LINK-HBA-FEB17-RF-5K5A7290-ROB-FINLAYSON_1170 v2
A QantasLink 717, similar to that in the disputed incident (Rob Finlayson)

A former Cobham ­Aviation first officer is seeking $780,000 in damages from Qantas after she was on board a 717 that suffered a mid-air engine failure.

Jacinda Cottee claims she suffered post-­traumatic stress over the incident, which she blames on the flag carrier for not maintaining its aircraft properly.

Qantas has said in response that the situation was caused by a manufacturing fault and insists all pilots are trained to respond to engine failure events.

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Cottee was operating the QantasLink flight QF1799 from Alice Springs to Brisbane on 10 March 2018 when the Rolls-Royce engine failed about 550 kilometres from its destination.

At the time, the Courier Mail reported witnesses heard a “loud bang” and the plane began to shake.

“One passenger claimed they were told to brace, and were sending goodbye messages to loved ones, while the crew briefed one man on how to operate the emergency door on the aircraft,” read the report. “Passengers cheered on the Qantas crew after the landing.”

The aircraft didn’t need to make an emergency landing but passengers were met by emergency services in Brisbane as a precaution.

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At the time Cobham, or National Jet Systems, had operated a fleet of 717s on behalf of QantasLink.

The Australian reported a later engineering inspection revealed damage to the compressor blades and the engine was removed.

Cottee’s claim is based on lost past and future earnings, and court documents lodged in Brisbane District Court say she believes the responsibility for the incident lay entirely with her employer and QantasLink.

“The claimant says that the maintenance when the accident occurred was largely performed in Canberra (and) due to poor maintenance practices with the 717 aircraft, the maintenance was ultimately moved from Canberra to Singapore,” a statement of claim says. “Further, the 717 aircraft was removed from service on the Hobart route due to ongoing issues with maintenance.”

“What happened to me highlights the importance of airlines providing care to all crew members following an incident, ­especially in the mental health space,” said Cottee. “National Jet Systems did not provide proper crisis care after the event.”

Slater and Gordon principal lawyer Kavita Maharaj also argued QantasLink breached its “duty of care” and overlooked safety.

Qantas said in response that this was the only engine shut down on QantasLink’s B717 fleet over a five-year period, while its lawyers HWL Ebsworth stated, “It may well be that no member of the Qantas Group is the ­entity responsible for the maintenance or service of the engine.”

“The cause of the engine issue from the flight in March 2018 was investigated and Rolls-Royce determined it was a manufacturing fault and not related to maintenance,” a Qantas spokesperson later told Daily Mail Australia.

“All Qantas aircraft are maintained to the highest safety standards, and our fleet of Boeing 717 aircraft have a 99.99 per cent reliability rate. This is the only engine shut down on QantasLink’s B717 fleet over a five-year period.

“Like all pilots, the first officer had been trained on how to respond in the event of an engine power failure.”

Last week, World of Aviation reported how the passengers onboard United Airlines Flight 328 have reportedly hit the airline with a class action lawsuit after a plane’s engine made worldwide headlines by catching on fire mid-flight.

Chad Schnell, the passenger leading the class action, claimed that the incident caused him severe emotional distress, and accused the airline of failing to properly inspect and maintain its aircraft fleet, thus causing the incident.

The lawsuit, filed with a Colorado court, stated that the engine in question “spectacularly failed” before “scattering pieces of the engine over Colorado and leaving passengers to a horrifying view of a fire on the wing”.

“The 231 passengers on board UA328 were lucky to escape with their lives, as the flight managed to land with no serious physical injuries; however, it left these passengers in fear for their life for nearly 20 minutes,” it said.

In a statement released after the lawsuit was filed, United Airlines backed the actions of its employees and reiterated its emphasis on safety.

“We remain proud of the ability of our employees to safely get our UA328 customers back to the airport and ultimately on to their destination later that same day,” the statement said.

“Safety remains our highest priority – for our employees and our customers. Given the ongoing federal investigation, we will not comment further on this lawsuit at this time.”

15 Comments

  • Robert LIVINGSTONE

    says:

    This was reported in The Australian a few days ago (Robyn Ironside) . There were a large number of comments on the story – none of them, from both the industry and the general public, which were supportive of the FO. The basic thrust was that she was in the wrong industry and that “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”. It’s instructive that none of the passengers found it necessary to sue.

  • JOHN TYLER

    says:

    Seriously? Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

  • AgentGerko

    says:

    I tend to think if you get PTSD from doing the very job that you’re highly paid to do then you’re in the wrong profession. It would certainly be a very scary event but, unlike the passengers, she was highly trained for that very eventuality. It was controlled satisfactorily, the aircraft wasn’t required to do an emergency landing or detour to a closer alternate. If this claim were to be allowed then every passenger on board plus the flight attendants would be entitled to the same claim.

  • PTSD for an event that can be expected on an aircraft and is rehearsed every 6 months as a pilot. Really? Did Ms Cottee contemplate not working with the company , if she was so concerned about the airworthiness of the aircraft she piloted?

  • Ash

    says:

    FFS, an engine failure that didn’t require an emergency landing.
    It was literally her job to deal with these situations.
    I hope she loses and has to pay all of QF’s legal costs.
    What scares me is that there may be other pilots in the QF ecosystem who are not competent in their job.

  • Peter

    says:

    Aviation is an inherently risky business, whilst engine failures are increasingly rare they still happen & a pilot is trained to cope with an engine failure right from the start of basic training. Unless the company failed to provide the necessary support after the event it seems unreasonable to blame them for the failure.

  • Dave

    says:

    How is the aviation industry going to survive if airlines are Sued in class actions every time something goes wrong? Insurance premiums will go through the roof.

  • Yvonne Osiejak

    says:

    OMG, my husband was a commercial helicopter pilot and has had three engine failures: he wants to know where he can make his claims please?

  • Peter Watkins

    says:

    Probably a good thing if she no longer flies. Obviously can’t handle stress and deal with inflight incidents.
    As for the United incident well it is the land of hey let’s sue and see what we can make out of a incident that could’ve had a tragic result. On both of ncidents I would be shaking the hands of the pilots that returned aircraft and people safely to the airport/destination.

  • These type of events actually boost your knowledge, your armoury and your experience as a professional pilot. Think of it as a bonus.

  • Marum

    says:

    This endless litigation in this country, is getting ridiculous. Why doesn’t the lady do the job she was trained to do, (in the simulator BTW) and pull her head in? If she is incapable of handling the job, I don’t want her flying any aircraft I am in. I want the best possible person up front – woman or man.

    Grrrooowwwwlll….Marum. (Die fliegende Katze)

  • R.Allcock

    says:

    Obviously the pilot/co-pilot in that a/c. at that time was Trained to handle emergency situations, perhaps they are looking for a less stressfull job!

  • Grant Haworth

    says:

    Why not sue Rolls Royce for the faulty engine not Qantas, everyone is trying to get something for nothing.

  • Cyrus Lesser

    says:

    Plaintiff law firms must stop encouraging clients with this kind of nonsense. If Rolls Royce says it was a manufacturing defect that no amount of maintenance would have revealed, the case can be thrown out on day 1!

  • Geoff K

    says:

    Isnt it up to the qantas maintanance group to detect and keep engines at its highest kevel of safety rather than pointing the finger at Rolls Royce .
    Qantas in general has had many problems with there planes and lets not just focus on this type of plane with problems
    Qantas your the responsability in keeping passengers safe and not sourcing maintanance overseas to try and save a dollar

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