Jetstar is under investigation by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and two pilots have been stood down following an incident in New Zealand earlier this month.
The incident has been described by a Qantas insider as a “further concern” about pilot training at the discount carrier although both CASA and Jetstar are playing it down.
A Jetstar spokesman confirmed that an aircraft’s “flaps” may have been in the wrong position on the Sydney to Christchurch flight on June 3. The position of the flaps on an aircraft’s wings is critical to landing procedures.
“A Jetstar A320 aircraft landed safely in Auckland after diverting from Christchurch due to poor weather,” the spokesman told BusinessDay. “The aircraft did go around at Christchurch before landing in Auckland. A go-around due to inclement weather is a common safety procedure.
“The crew reported a flap position issue during the go around and the event has been assessed internally. We take anything that happens in the cockpit very seriously, we are assessing the issue and our initial findings show that the fundamental safety of the flight was never at risk.”
Sources told BusinessDay the “a missed approach was made” when the plane was landing at Christchurch.
“This is not the first time this has happened in Jetstar. It occured in Melbourne some years ago and they nearly crashed. CASA has interviewed the chief pilot of Jetstar in relation to the incident.”
A spokesman for CASA said that the reporting of the incident following “normal regulatory practice”.
“Jetstar has reported a recent landing incident to CASA, and CASA is reviewing Jetstar’s investigation into the event. On the completion of its review, CASA will ensure that any appropriate safety actions are taken,” said the spokesman.
The matter will be further unwelcome news for Jetstar’s parent Qantas, whose shares hit all-time lows recently in the wake of a large downgrade in its profits.
It follows reports six months ago of a Jetstar Airbus A320 losing altitude during a “botched landing” at Melbourne airport, as pilots fumbled with wrong flap settings.
Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigators had discovered “a sequence of mistakes on a July 28 evening flight from Newcastle to Melbourne left the pilot flying the plane – a cadet recruit with just 300 hours Airbus flying experience – overwhelmed. The captain sitting next to him was so busy trying to recover the situation that his capacity was also compromised,” according to the report in this publication.
“On landing approach the plane was variously descending too fast, the flaps weren’t extended properly and an altitude alert went unheard by both pilots” said the report which raised concerns of the Australian and International Pilots Association brought before a Senate inquiry last year about the risk of fast-tracking inexperienced pilots to airline cockpits.
Jetstar defended its training methods. “’Any pilot who sits behind the controls of a Jetstar aircraft has the skills and qualifications to be there,” said a spokeswoman.
“Go-arounds [aborted landings] are not uncommon and are a part of our systems of checks and balances for safe operations.”