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Qantas passengers stranded in Baku make it to London for Christmas

written by Adam Thorn | December 26, 2022

Qantas has succeeded in its mission to get passengers stranded in Baku to London in time to celebrate Christmas.

The A380 it dispatched to collect travellers, VH-OQD, departed Azerbaijan at 6:27 am on Christmas Day as flight QF A1D and landed in London at 8:03 am. Twitter user Chris Harrison snapped this photo of -OQD on approach to Heathrow Airport.Twitter user Chris Harrison snapped this photo of -OQD on approach to Heathrow Airport.

The Flying Kangaroo’s original A380, VH-OQH, was en route from Sydney to London via Singapore on Friday when a sensor light alerted pilots to the possibility of smoke in the cargo hold, causing it to make an emergency landing in Azerbaijan.

Initial investigations, though, have revealed no evidence of smoke, meaning the incident was likely a result of a fault with the sensor.


QF1 was nine hours into its 13-hour flight to the British capital when it was forced to turn around above Tbilisi, Georgia.

Heydar Aliyev International Airport, in Baku, has one of the longest runways in the area and is a popular choice for aircraft to make emergency landings. It was meant there by emergency services.

The grounding of VH-OQH will have knock-on effects for not only the passengers in Azerbaijan trying to get to London for Christmas but all customers who have booked to fly with Qantas either way on its Kangaroo route over the coming days.

“The aircraft operating the recovery flight is one of the operational spares that Qantas has on standby over the holiday season to help recover customers in the event of an unexpected disruption like this,” the business said in a statement.

“We know this has been a significant disruption for customers ahead of Christmas.

“However, we will always put safety before schedule. We have apologised and thanked them for their patience while we finalised the recovery plans. They have spent the night at the Marriott Hotel and been provided with meals and transport.”

Qantas grounded its entire fleet of A380s during the pandemic, with most sent to the Victorville desert ‘boneyard’.

The Flying Kangaroo has been slowly returning them to active service, though plans to permanently scrap two.

So far, VH-OQB, VH-OQD, VH-OQH, VH-OQK and VH-OQJ have returned to active operations, but VH-OQC, VH-OQI remain in the desert.

VH-OQL and VH-OQA are currently in Abu Dhabi, where they are receiving a cabin upgrade. VH-OQF has already been dismantled, with speculation that it will be joined on the scrap heap by VH-OQE.

VH-OQA, Qantas’ first A380, was involved in arguably Australian aviation’s most serious-ever safety incident, when its Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine exploded shortly after it took off, causing a major fire in November 2010.

Despite significant structural and systems damage, Captain de Crespigny and his colleagues in the flight deck — Qantas’ first A380 named after Australian aviation legend Nancy-Bird Walton — managed to return to Singapore Changi Airport for a safe landing.

No passengers or crew were injured.

Investigators later found the failure was due to a fatigue crack in an oil feed-pipe in the number two engine of the aircraft. This led to an internal oil leak and fire, with the turbine disc eventually bursting through the engine casing.

VH-OQA, meanwhile, underwent significant repairs after the incident that took 16 months to complete and cost $139 million before it eventually returned to service in April 2012.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce used the incident to reject calls for airlines to have just one pilot in the cockpit of its aircraft.

“We had five amazing pilots in the cockpit, and without that, I don’t think that aircraft would have landed safely,” he said in a new interview. “We know that, and we’re very conscious of it.”

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