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Fragments found on Qantas jet support oxygen tank theory PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Agencies

Investigators today said fragments found on a Qantas jet forced to make an emergency landing with a hole in its fuselage supported the theory that an oxygen tank had exploded.

The Boeing 747-400 made an emergency landing in the Philippines on Friday after a rapid descent from 29,000ft (8,800 metres).

Neville Blyth, a senior investigator from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, said a valve and other small fragments would be tested to determine whether they had come from the oxygen tank.

The tank is designed to provide oxygen to passengers during an emergency.

The fragments were found in the passenger cabin, above where the missing tank, along with five other cylinders, was stored in the cargo hold.

"We recovered ... a valve from an oxygen cylinder," Blyth told a news conference. "It is likely that that valve is from the missing cylinder."

If the valve and other fragments are shown to have come from the cylinder, further investigation would be required to determine why the tank burst, he added.

Blyth and other officials said they were unaware of any previous cases in which an oxygen tank had caused an airline accident.

Qantas has ordered all oxygen tanks on its fleet of 747-400s to be urgently inspected.

It emerged today that the US Federal Aviation Administration issued a directive, which became effective in May, warning airlines to inspect oxygen cylinders on 747-400s.

The directive was issued amid fears they may not have been properly heat treated, which could lead to oxygen leaks and fire hazards.

However, David Cox, the Qantas head of engineering, said the FAA directive applied to a different type of oxygen system to the one being scrutinised in the investigation into Friday's crash.

There were 365 passengers and crew on board the plane, which was travelling from London to Melbourne.

They reported hearing a loud bang before the aircraft suddenly depressurised. No one was injured.

Yesterday, passengers said not all the oxygen masks on board the plane were working, causing some people to almost pass out.

The aircraft flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder arrived in Australia today. Officials said it would take several days to download the information.

The Qantas chief executive, Geoff Dixon, said it would be wrong to speculate on what had caused the incident, but added that it was likely to be "out of our control".

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