There have been two image threatening Qantas ‘crises’ today. At least. Both in Brisbane.

QF 168, a 767-300 from Tokyo via Cairns arrived with emergency services on more than their usual professional state of alert because of uncertainty about a possible oil leak. And the other incident, which seems to be the only one to make the news, was QF 52 from Singapore, which had a fault in its nose wheel which could have caused problems on landing. The landing was fine, but the A330 involved was towed to the terminal to avoid the potential embarrassment of docking with say, a window or wall instead of the aerobridge.

Neither of these incidents ranks anywhere near the seriousness of the electrical failures in a 747-400 at Bangkok in January, or the oxygen bottle rupture that blew the side out of another 747-400 which made an emergency landing in Manila in July, or the alarming control problems that caused another A330 to land at Learmonth early in October after a violent negative G event injured slammed more than 70 passengers and crew into the overhead bins, injuring 14 of them seriously.

Is the general media being overzealous? Yes, but understandably. And is it really digging for the true story? No? In fact the trend seems to be going in the opposite direction, with pom-pom waving cheer girl suck up to Qantas stories being run by apologists even before David Epstein takes up his duties to run the airline’s spinning mills .

The real stories about Qantas and safety relate to the inability of its investment in maintenance to prevent even trivial incidents like those of today happening, and end the disgraceful unreliability of its timetable and purge an engineering management that couldn’t even keep track of a vital air worthiness directive relating to a pressure bulkhead on the Canberra-centric fleet of aged 737-400s for an incredible five years.

Qantas was found to be deficient in its safety and maintenance standards by a CASA ‘special’ audit three months ago. The audit also revealed that CASA itself was incapable of detecting serious deficiencies in Qantas for a prolonged period, and was of course suppressed in its full detail because neither the regulator nor the government believe the public should know the whole, ugly truth about what is supposed to be an Australian icon or the diligent and courageous air safety authority.

Qantas has a new CEO Alan Joyce in charge. How or whether he fixes the reliability and standards issues at Qantas is going to be the real story for some time to come.

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