Monday 23 May 2022

Qantas Boeing 787 took off with its static ports covered

Last September, a Qantas Boeing 787-9 flew 14 hours across the Pacific with four of its static ports covered up. A Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner flew from Melbourne to Los Angeles in 2021 with tape covering four fan cowl static ports. This was despite a Qantas engineer placing "remove before flight" barricade streamer tape on the covered static ports the day before the flight. While the 14-plus-hour flight was uneventful, the incident triggered an investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).

Last Tuesday, the ATSB released its findings concerning the September 22, 2021, incident. The aviation safety agency found the aircraft departed with reduced redundancy to the engine electronic control system because the coverings were left intact. The ATSB also found that Qantas' own procedures did not identify all of the aircraft's static ports, and the procedure for restoring the plane back to service did not reference Boeing procedures. This allowed different interpretations of which ports would be covered.

The incident involved VH-ZNJ, which was due to fly a freight flight from Melbourne (MEL) to Los Angeles (LAX) on September 22. The night before, an engineer prepared the aircraft for the flight. This preparation included removing covers from the pitot probes and static ports. The following morning, before departure, one of the flight crew conducted a pre-flight exterior inspection, with no anomalies detected. The aircraft was also subject to a pre-departure exterior inspection by ground service dispatch personnel.


Around 09:00 the Dreamliner took off and set course for LAX. Flying time across the Pacific was 14 hours 30 minutes. The flight was described as "uneventful." It was only during the post-flight inspection that the covered static ports were discovered. Static ports provide important air pressure data to aircraft systems, but the fuselage static ports and vertical fin static ports play the primary role. The fan cowl static port air pressure data is only used when an aircraft's engine electronic control determines that the data coming from the other static ports is unreliable.

Before flying out of Melbourne, VH-ZNJ had sat idle for 39 hours. When an aircraft sits on the ground between 24 and 72 hours, Qantas requires it to be subject to 'normal' parking procedures. These parking procedures include fitting pitot covers and covering the static ports, in accordance with Boeing recommendations. The Boeing 787-9 has six fuselage, four engine fan cowl, and four vertical fin static ports.

A similar incident occurred here in Brisbane four years ago. In July 2018, a Malaysia Airlines A330-300 left Brisbane (BNE) with its three pitot probes covered and almost immediately began getting unreliable airspeed indications. The Airbus was able to turn around and land safely with assistance from Brisbane ATC.  The ATSB made several findings regarding September's incident. The agency noted the meter-long tail of the 'remove before flight' tape covering the static ports was stuck down to prevent it from being torn from the fuselage in strong winds, as per Boeing's recommended procedure.

Story sourced from here

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