May 18, 2011

Something you won’t see on Sunrise or in print

A colleague Geoffrey Thomas has been called to task by Steve Purvinas, the federal secretary of the Qantas licensed aircraft engineers union for comments he recently made about its memb

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

A colleague Geoffrey Thomas has been called to task by Steve Purvinas, the federal secretary of the Qantas licensed aircraft engineers union for comments he recently made about its members on the TV show Sunrise.

GT as those of us who report on airlines call him, is fully able to defend himself against those criticisms.

However there are constraints  in the reporting of issues concerning airlines in Australia in that the discussions are generally conducted within a time limit of between 30-150 seconds on air, or 300 words in print.

This makes in-depth reporting and analysis difficult to achieve, and generally speaking, organised labor doesn’t have the media relations resources that are deployed by  managements to create easily used media content.

However on-line reporting doesn’t have such time or space limitations, although it may well and truly exhaust the will or capacity of readers to study detailed commentaries from management or labor.

This is a letter to GT circulated by SP. It goes into the engineer’s position in detail, and offers a severe and alarming assessment of the quality of maintenance work performed overseas.

That part of the letter is published below. Similar detailed assessments from management are very welcome.

Firstly regarding Licenced  Aircraft Engineers, particularly at Qantas.  Most have completed year 12 and then commence a 4 year apprenticeship as most tradespeople do.  For other trades, that is the end of the formal process that gives them their trade qualification.  Not so for a LAME.  At the end of our apprenticeship, we are then Unlicensed Aircraft Engineers.  I takes many years of post-trade study to acquire an initial Licence.  There are a series of exams known as basics.  In my case (avionics) there are 25 of these exams that are extremely difficult to pass and on my journey I failed a number and had to re-sit them.  Beyond that you have to complete specific training on an aircraft you seek to be licenced on, this is a classroom course full time of approximately 3 months, hours of study each night and another 12 exams.  Once completed you have to demonstrate to CASA that you have carried out tasks to the value of over 1000 hours on that aircraft, this work that must be documented takes years.  In total, to become licenced on 4 aircraft I have been required to pass over 120 exams.  LAMEs study their whole lives to remain current, much of it in their own time to keep you safe in the air.  I would challenge you to find any profession, be it Doctor, Barrister, Playwright or Rocket Scientist who is required to pass as many exams as us to attain their qualification.

In return, we get paid a reasonable wage and so we should.  Our remuneration is certainly not excessive.  Our wages start at $63,440 when we have one licence.  The absolute maximum is $113,516 for a person licenced on a multitude of aircraft with many years (usually over 20 with Qantas) experience.  Out of over 1600 LAMEs at Qantas, only 45 are on that top level.  The vast majority fit well below 100k and to be considered an overpaid tradesman at these levels is an insult when you consider our training and responsibility.  Anything we earn above those amounts is because we work extra hours and extensive shiftwork.  40% of our members will not spend Christmas with their families.  Nearly all work nights and weekends which makes it practically impossible to have a partner who works which means most of us are one income families.  Please do not attack our wages again.

Overseas facilities. Well I could talk forever about these and can support everything I say with documents that are known to Qantas and should be made public.  We don’t always do that though because we want issues addressed in house.  When the Qantas management team and people like you go on about the top class overseas facilities we are forced to go public because we know it is simply not true.  Heavy Maintenance of the tin cans that carry people at 40,000 ft is a serious matter and there is no room for errors by the people entrusted with those functions.  Nearly all fatal accidents caused by maintenance error emanate from a small mistake.  They all could have been prevented.  Small mistakes happen every day in our industry and at home, we seek to learn from those mistakes so they don’t reoccur.  Over many years, our Australian experience has seen these mistakes reduce to a point where they are practically eliminated.  This is in many ways due to the attitude of Aussies with regard to authority.  We have always had the ability to stand up to our superiors and say – hey mate, I think something is wrong here, we need to look into it a bit further.  The yes Sir, no Sir approach adopted elsewhere is not conducive to a culture of learning and prevention of maintenance error.  Qantas are trying to change the culture at home so we can become more like the efficient operations overseas and it will be a sad day if they achieve that objective.  These changes are often driven by managers with little or no LAME experience and undertaken with one eye on the operation and another on the bonus they put at jeopardy if they don’t achieve their performance targets.

What price do you put on efficiency?  I’d like just to explain how cheap these overseas facilities are.  In December last year we were approached by Qantas management to rush through a new wage deal for Forstaff employees at Avalon in Victoria.  They were told a new deal was crucial to establish a stable industrial environment so they could press for a reconfiguration program on Qantas 747 aircraft.  The members ultimately accepted the deal and the contact was awarded to the facility.  During the process it was explained that the contenders were Avalon and HAEKO in Hong Kong.  The project was worth $200 million bucks and the Hong Kong bid had come in $5 million cheaper.  That of course is 2.5%, peanuts in the scheme of things.  To consider using these facilities for such small gain is a farce in my view and I will now go to some reasons why.  Before I do I’d like to describe the makeup of Australian facilities for Heavy Maintenance.  We do things better because we have a higher ratio of Licenced Engineers per workgroup.  Melbourne sits around 60% LAME, Brisbane and Avalon around 40%.  Qantas have a target of 30% in Australian facilities.

Hong Kong – I don’t have exact figures on LAME ratios but have been advised that they are about 1 in 10 or 10%.  The facility up there have made serious errors on Qantas planes in the past few years.  Corrosion is now being uncovered on two Qantas 747-400 aircraft that had been up there for D checks in 2009.  The corrosion would have been evident back then and was missed, made worse by incorrect installation of fittings and sealants in the galley areas.  We are now fixing that problem (the 5% savings of course are being borne by the Aussie facility).  A couple of years ago they had mounted 3 out of 4 engines incorrectly on one 747 with load bearing countersunk washers installed upside down.  We tried to address that issue in house and wanted it reported formally to CASA because we were concerned that other engines installed in the facility could be flying on live aircraft around the globe.  Qantas spent the next six months arguing with us as to whether they were required to report the issue or not.  No formal report was ever submitted.  The last 747-300 maintained up there had an issue with the flaps, the facility were unable to rig them and the aircraft flew home on a concession where, you guessed it, the Aussies rigged them correctly.

Singapore – Another regular destination for Qantas jets with a ratio of 1 licenced Engineer per 12  or 8.3%.  I’m sure you have seen what they do up there with household staplers, that’s how they repair broken wires.  Not just on one plane but a number that had been through there.  What you may not be aware of is the internal Qantas reports we have on the facility.  In the Qantas Quality Assurance words –

“This supplier must demonstrate a quality improvement in at least the above mentioned areas before Qantas can have confidence that Qantas and CASA requirements are being met.  Qantas management must consider whether the risks of continued usage of this supplier are acceptable to Qantas and with close scrutiny, if quality improvement will be demonstrated with future checks.”

The report contains details about an Engineer who carried out 52 hours’ worth of critical safety inspections on one rostered shift and others who had certified for flight control operational checks at a time when the aircraft was not supplied with the hydraulic or electric power to carry out the said check.  This practice is known in our industry as pencil whipping.  It’s when you sign to say you have carried out an inspection when you haven’t actually done it.  The report is comprehensive and has many such instances.  Qantas still send aircraft to Singapore, maybe they are saving 5% in doing so, it may be more but I sure as hell know they are not getting what they are paying for.

Malaysia – Some 737’s have been sent there as overflow work.  Without too much detail it was in 2008 that an aircraft returned from a C check with over 90 active defects.  In Australia, we are embarrassed if an aircraft comes out of heavy with one.  The next check it was decided that some Aussies would go up there as inspectors.  They recorded over 500 maintenance errors on a list and handed it to the management team, the list was later found in the bin.  The list of errors now sits in our office as a reminder of how proud we are of our work in Australia and why we should get upset when reporters support the notion of overseas facilities being “top notch”.

Lufthansa Technik Manilla – A330’s were maintained there but they are back home now.  Whilst in the facility it was noted that 2 Licenced Engineers were certifying for a workforce of 44, that is 1 to 22 or 4.5%.  As you can imagine, it was absolutely impossible for them to check all of the AME work.  This leads to a situation where mistakes occur.  In the equipment compartments resides a number of emergency oxygen bottles.  When they are fitted we are required to open the bottle and fit a special locking wire so the bottle doesn’t work its way closed.  In Manilla, the wire was fitted with the bottle closed in a way that it would have prevented the tap opening if vibrations allowed it to.  That bottle was the emergency bottle for the pilots.  If that aircraft had suffered a rapid decompression, the Tech Crew would have reached for their masks, found no breathable oxygen and at 30, 000 ft would have been unconscious in less than 60 seconds.  It’s little things that make our industry safe or unsafe.

Lufthansa Technik Frankfurt –  We have no reports of quality deficiencies there but would like to respond to press comments you have supported about critical mass of aircraft being required before the ability to carry out heavy maintenance is viable.  They are currently undertaking the first round of A380 C checks.  Qantas has said that it does and will not have enough A380’s in their fleet to justify HM on this aircraft type.  Qantas will ultimately have 20 A380’s.  Lufthansa on the other hand have 8 in service and 7 on order.  Please do not support Qantas statements about aircraft numbers to justify maintenance facilities knowing that Lufthansa can do it with less planes than Qantas.

Engine Maintenance – Now all fully outsourced, mostly overseas.  The 747-400 RB 211’s have been failing at an ever increasing rate.  Most of the failures have been sourced to one factor and part of the engine.  There is a modification to prevent this but because of the closure of the Sydney Engine line where this work would have been done, Qantas can’t immediately carry out the modification.  They continue to fly today, awaiting their repairs and unable to fit them in to the overseas facilities that can do them because the lines are full and you have to book in advance.  Another few bucks saved, millions wasted through engine failures and many lives put at risk.  Is this a safety issue?  You bet it is.  Please do not mimic Qantas when they comment on in flight failures of components by saying “this was not a safety issue”.  In our view, every failure degrades safety.  In the Qantas view, its only safety related if someone is injured or worse.

Component Maintenance – The Australian workshops are a shell of their former being.  Again mostly outsourced overseas.  Engine and Component Maintenance are not the domain of our members however we are concerned about fitting faulty parts because it increases failures and makes our work look substandard.  Qantas claim that only 7% of maintenance is carried out overseas.  This figure is distorted, they are only referring to 7% of some maintenance.  In a whole with Engine, Component and some heavy maintenance overseas we estimate the real figure of maintenance carried out offshore in man hours closer to 50%.

Qantas LAMEs are proud of what they do and want nothing more than the airline to succeed.  The main concern is that the foundations that made Qantas the safest airline in the world are being torn down piece by piece and for the sake of small savings that are making the operation less efficient.  When we raise issues publically it is not an Industrial tactic, scaremongering  or game, it is invariably because the airline is unwilling to address the issues in-house.  The Accountants and Mathematicians running the airline do not understand this.  Not one member of the Qantas board have operational airline experience and it is clear that they are making uneducated decisions that will ultimately lead to the demise of an Australian icon.  Now off to our claims.

The Job Security section of our claim list is the most important and split 6 ways.  They all tie together and relate to job security in more than one way.  Everyone understands that security of employment or the functions that make it up give us surety.  Security is also achieved by knowing that the airline is free from the maintenance issues that have plagued it in recent years and ultimately led to the demise of Ansett.  A safe Qantas protects our reputation and jobs.

·       A380 and 787 maintenance ability in Australia – These aircraft are here or on the way.  We need the facilities, training and tooling to carry out this work.  The way things look at the moment, the airline is not preparing as they did for the 767, 747 and other aircraft well before they arrived.

·       In Flight Entertainment Servicing – This is a large chunk of Avionics work.  Qantas had outsourced this function to a two bit operator called IASA a number of years ago.  That operator has failed to pay many of the entitlements due to it’s employees, predominantly super.  They went bankrupt  2 weeks ago leaving Qantas high and dry with no servicing of this equipment and the IASA employees unemployed and owed thousands.  Qantas LAMEs have stepped up to the plate and filled the void, the airline are shopping around for another third party contractor to do the work.  If Qantas have a hernia every time we talk of Protected Industrial Action, why do they allow themselves to be left high and dry by a contractor with no notice who could go broke at anytime.

·       Small ports to be manned – Some ports such as Karratha have upwards of 40 flight now per week.  We think it crucial that when services meet a certain level that LAMEs should be there to check the aircraft.

·       Cat A licences – CASA are aligning with a new licencing system that allows a person to attain a part licence.  It may restrict them to work on brakes and wheels, lighting systems or pre-flight inspections.  We are concerned that use of these licences will end the days of a person being fully trained on all systems on the aircraft.  It looks to us like a dead end career and we do not want this new licence type used by Qantas.  The A licence system is currently falling apart in Europe.

·       Existing job function retention – We are seeking to hold all the current functions we do.

·       Contractors to be paid no less than as if they were employed under the Qantas Agreement – Qantas accountants have worked out that you can bypass employment contracts and agreements by opening shelf companies ie. Jet connect, to employ people on lesser rates.  It is a sham and we don’t want it to happen.  It is also a safety issue.  If they offer LAMEs jobs through third party contractors at $50k per year, they won’t find many people.   These companies will be understaffed and undue pressure will be placed on the employees there to meet contract requirements.  Corners will be cut.

Much has been said about LAME and pilot wage claims in the press.  I’d ask that you not mimic the Qantas spokesmodel as she rolls out her fabricated figures.  They are not reflective of the claims made by our members and do not incorporate considerations such as the savings we are offering and outstanding commitments. Our claim has always been for a two year agreement, not three as they keep stating.  Of course if you want to assist Qantas by spreading false propaganda, please just extend the Agreement period to any length you want.  If our 3% wage claim was viewed over a 30 year period, yes it is a 90% wage claim.  Our claims are –

·       3% increase pa on wages and allowances over 2 years

·       More rapid progression  through our graded system.  To counter this we have offered that all future training be carried with no wage increase on completion of training.  Currently we are paid a minimum of $5000 pa annum for each new licence we acquire.  We are prepared to forgo that in order to stimulate training in this country.  The two claims when combined almost neutralise each other adding .14% pa extra.

·       Movement to an annualised salary rather than wages plus shift penalties.  This is so we don’t lose money when we are sick or take long service leave.  This commitment was agreed by Qantas in 1998 in return for efficiencies and placed in our certified Agreement back then.  They have never delivered it.  It is simply an outstanding commitment they have never honoured.  They say it will cost them $70 million dollars, that is $70 million dollars of our money that they owe us and have never paid.  Our claim is not to recover all the lost money over the period since 1998, its just to have it put in place from today.

·       50% increase to Senior LAME allowance.  This amount is currently $110 per week.  It applies to less than a quarter of the members and is a small amount in the scheme of things.

Other claims are varied and I will touch on them briefly.  Please remember this is a log of claims, it is not a list of our entire expectations.  It provides a range of ideas and options for the airline to consider in preparation for an offer.  I have never been involved in negotiations where all expectations are met and these round is no different.

·       One week extra leave per annum – this claim is simple, an extra week is worth about 2.5% pa.  Virgin did not hesitate to implement this in their recent Agreement and six weeks leave for us has now become an industry standard.

·       Increases to redundancy entitlements – We shall only press these claims if Qantas refuses to deliver the job security we are after.  The idea is that if you want to tear the house down, we will make it too expensive for you.

·       Laptops – Currently resolved by reinstatement of the ability to purchase salary sacrifice computer.

·       Qantas Club Membership – We don’t want this for free as has been reported.  We want LAMEs with 5 year service to be able to purchase membership like 20,000,000 other Aussies can do.  We are sick of being described as grubby Engineers who are overpaid tradespeople who must be kept out of these facilities at all costs.

·       Confirmed Long Service Leave trips after 10 years – Claim dropped.

·       Revision to previous priorities for staff wishing to travel – When we use standby travel whilst on holidays, the old system saw staff allocated seating based on years of service and your position in the company.  Qantas recently changed the policy so that 500 managers can jump the queue.  An IT manager with 12 months service can now trump a Qantas Captain with 35 year’s service.  If you think that’s fair, fill your boots.  Your dwindling respect from airline employees will plummet, I’d suggest further comments by you in the press about it will leave you with only about 500 fans, all managers of course.

·       Transition to retirement scheme – This claim is for some provision to increase access to part time work or job share.  It benefits both parties.

·       Long Service Leave to be taken in smaller blocks – We must take 15 days minimum now, trouble is finding a slot where you can take it.  If you can take it in smaller packets we could actually use the well-earned leave.

·       Meal allowances at ATO rates – Simple claim, the current rates for our members are less than ATO and the Unlicenced Engineers.

·       No Cancellation of Annual Leave – When our members have leave approved and go and book their holidays, they don’t want the decision reversed.

·       Consultation on business decisions – This is a mandatory term, we want the consultation to occur before final decisions are made.

·       A Fair Disciplinary Procedure – We don’t want members punished in a harsh, unfair or unjust manner.

·       Single dollar payments for short notice secondments – Our members repair aircraft at outstations, when the aircraft is ready to come home the Engineer often doesn’t get given a seat home.  We say he should be paid at single time until he gets home.

Update GT to SP:

Dear Steve:

I am travelling at the moment and not back till Saturday when I will reply fully to your email BUT I have never ever said that your members were overpaid tradesmen.

My issue has always been in your statements that off-shore maintenance done at Cathay, SQ and LH facilities is shoddy!

That is and has always been my issue.

But let me digest all this and (reply)  on Saturday.

Best regards,

Geoffrey Thomas

GT’s detailed reply to SP:

Hi Steve:

Firstly thank you for your time and trouble to put together the document and I comment as follows:

1.       I have never ever described your members or Qantas pilots in anything but glowing terms. Recently I have had more opportunity to talk about the pilots’ skill level because of the well publicised incidents.
2.       I am well aware of the qualifications of engineers, the long hours, the shift work and the list goes on. Many would say that not nearly enough credit is given for the work that is done. The same can be said, of course, for the pilots.
3.       You say: “You have also on a number of occasions supported Qantas comments about overseas facilities being as good as those in Australia.  It appears from what we have heard that you are running directly from a Qantas PR running sheet.”  There is no way that I am a Qantas mimic as you constantly say – hardly! The fact is simply this. LH Lufthansa Technik, HACEO and Singapore Airlines facilities are world class and used by airlines across the globe. If you have serious concerns about their facilities why not name them? You would be hard pressed to question the maintenance record of airlines such as Cathay Pacific and Lufthansa.
4.       You say: “Qantas has said that it does and will not have enough A380s in their fleet to justify HM on this aircraft type.  Qantas will ultimately have 20 A380s.  Lufthansa on the other hand have 8 in service and 7 on order.  Please do not support Qantas statements about aircraft numbers to justify maintenance facilities knowing that Lufthansa can do it with less planes than Qantas.” This reasoning is simply not correct and you know it. As everyone in the industry knows LH Technik is the world’s largest aircraft engineering business and it has set itself up as an A380 service centre for a host of airlines regardless of how many A380s they have. Which is why it will be – and is advertising as such – a 787 maintenance facility when it has not ordered one 787!!  Steve, your point is a distortion of the facts which possibly raises questions about other items that you highlight.
5.       Steve your claims regarding the 737s are at odds with my engineering sources and also Qantas’ so I am not sure where that leaves us. Can you produce the list of the 500 defects?? Perhaps you can post it on PPrune? With regard to the 90 defects I think in the end only 6 were confirmed as of Malaysian origin –which they deny – but regardless six is not acceptable I agree and I understand QF is not using them anymore.
6.       You say that you don’t expect all your claims to be met but why include claims that will be ridiculed by the media. Not just by me but many others. Problem is just one silly claim in 28 can crucify you even if the other 27 are really valid and some clearly are.
7.       Without knowing the full detail of the QF staff travel program I agree that it is wrong for say a one-year management graduate to get a seat ahead of a 20 year veteran.
8.       I think it is a shame that your EBA negotiations are concurrent with the long-haul pilots and TWU because much of the media coverage lumps all the claims together into “airline unions are demanding” which doesn’t necessarily show you in a good light and blurs the issues.
9.       But I agree with you that Qantas – and we in the media – should use one year figures to explain increases not three years or in your case two years.  I certainly will do so from now on.
10.   On wages do your figures include the 17.5% leave loading and the shift penalties which I believe can be up to 44% for the hours worked?
11.   As I said rather than a lapdog for Qantas I am without doubt its most strident critic and have done so in various media platforms for years.  I have long argued that Qantas has been last to market with cabin innovations that has cost them dearly and EK, SQ and CX etc have taken – higher yield – passengers away as well as millions of economy pax. See my article: (Where next for Qantas in the April Edition of Australian Aviation.) And this is not hindsight stuff…..
a.       I lobbied then CEO James Strong in 1997 about Premium Y arguing that Australians are amongst the tallest in the world and we had many of the longest sectors to fly.
b.      I also warned him about DVT becoming an issue.
c.       I suggested one zone of a 747 be used and there be an increase of 10% in legroom and a 15% increase in fare level. He said they couldn’t make the business case.
d.      I was touting the market draw of IFE for Y in the early-mid 1990s but to no avail at QF.
e.      I also touted the virtues of a long-haul 300-seater (777 or A340) to serve many European cities that the 747 was way too big for. Again deaf ears.
f.        Dixon later admitted that theses were all mistakes by Qantas and I still think it should order 10 to 20 777-300ERs now to replace the 747s over and above the 20 A380s.
g.       I was also one of the few critics of the Airline Partners Australia Deal in 2007/08. You may recall Dixon touting Texas Pacific as the saviors of Continental as a reason to support the deal. I wrote strongly in Australian Aviation that that link was very wrong and mischievous.
h.      Also I was scathing about the QF/BA deal in late 2008.
12.   With more and more passengers – by percentage – flying on low cost carriers into Australia Qantas is now marginalized in many markets. Squeezed between better product /value premium carriers at the top end and LCCs below. Thus it is harder and harder for Qantas to command the higher fares that it used to. One member of PPrune posted that the latest BITRE figures were just one report. Indeed they are but go back over the last eight years and you will see that LCC numbers climb year-on-year and Qantas’ share declines year-on-year. It appears to be an irreversible trend.
13.   On the same problem Qantas also once attracted passengers with its safety record but as airline safety in general has improved the ability to charge that premium is disappearing. Passengers change airlines for $10…I see it every day. Aircraft such as the 777 and 717 have never had a fatality.
14.   More than anything else, what the airline industry in Australia is facing is the fallout from government policy over the past 20 years of privatizing airlines, allowing greater access to the Australian market in line with global liberalization and also giving 100% foreign owned airlines access to the domestic market. (Virgin Blue in 2000 and Tiger Airways).
15.   On that issue I have also been a strident critic of deregulation repeatedly warning about its effects on the industry. It has devastated the US airline industry and ruined many lives.
16.   A number of PPRuners have questioned my relationship with Qantas. Over the past 10 years it has been more “toxic” than “working” but that has certainly improved over the past two years. Yes I am a QF FF with silver status thanks to the linking of credit cards rather than flying and I note QF is onto that and now going to increase rewards for people who fly rather than accumulate points via CCs. And for the record yes Qantas does from time to time provide me travel to industry functions however I prefer to stay at home and would reject the majority of the trips offered by airlines in general. However in many cases I actually pay for my trips as it is policy for a number of the organizations I do work for.  With regard to the Chairman’s lounge yes seen it twice in Perth to do interviews with Joyce and to set up a TV shoot for Channel 7. And no never had a bottle of Grange, which is good as I don’t drink red.
Steve, this industry is at the crossroads as we are seeing a tsunami of LCCS in Asia and Australia and I am deeply concerned about the affects of AirAsia on our industry in Australia. It has seat mile costs of approximately 2.5c ASK and Australians are flying with it in droves!  How do you stop that? I don’t think you can!
You guys in Sydney haven’t seen the affects of Air Asia yet but look at the numbers ex Perth and Melbourne to Bali and KL…awesome and frightening. Indonesia AirAsia is four times daily between Perth and Bali and AirAsia X double daily with an A330 to KL. And yes AirAsia does not compete with Qantas but more Jetstar however its fare levels have the effect of dragging down fares across the board.
The local tourism industry in WA has been hit very hard as people make the choice between a trip down south or flying to Asia. In Feb 2011 largely because of AirAsia, Bali was the second most popular destination out of Perth with 44,000 pax with KL third at 29,000 pax. Singapore was number one ex Perth with 70,000 mainly because of SQ.
Steve you say in your email that “regarding increases to redundancy entitlements – We shall only press these claims if Qantas refuses to deliver the job security we are after.  The idea is that if you want to tear the house down, we will make it too expensive for you.”  It will not be Qantas that tears that house down it will be the travelling public.
I agree absolutely with your members Qantas has to be far, far smarter to make Qantas a compelling first choice for travel. (Some PPruners have criticized Qantas for flying around old aircraft. To be fair the QF Group should have 35 787s by now and nearly their full fleets of A380s but as we all know it has been let down badly by Boeing and Airbus.)
Question is, how do we achieve all of this in the current toxic environment? Perhaps you can lead the way and say roll over the EBA for 12 months and let’s reinvent Qantas. Challenge Joyce to reinvent travel! You would have every Australian behind you!
Qantas will not fall down this year or next nor in five years but unless this toxic environment is fixed and unless the airline gets on the front foot with commercial innovations it may not see its 100th year. Doomsday? All you have to do is look at history. Hundreds and hundreds of airlines have collapsed in the past 30 years, many of them household names or institutions. Who would have ever thought in the 1970s that Pan Am would be gone in 20 years or TWA shortly after.  And more recently Japan Airlines bankruptcy is the biggest corporate collapse in Japan’s history with more than 16,000 staff gone. Sure Qantas isn’t Japan Airlines but if it wasn’t for the FF program and Jetstar it would be in lousy shape and that is a cold hard sobering fact!
Steve I deliver management and staff lectures on the need for change and delivered one this week in China. I start off with pictures of flight lines and production halls from Long Beach (Douglas and then McDonnell Douglas), Palmdale (Lockheed) and San Diego (Convair ) in California and also Boeing from 1960 to 1990.  It’s a great picture show –if you like planes- but the point I make is that in the PP slides there are 45 airlines and five manufacturers. Today only five airlines and one manufacturer survive in their own right with the rest bankrupt, merged or out of the commercial aircraft business.  Sobering stuff!
If SQ or EK smell blood what is to stop them setting up a domestic operation in Australia? Nothing! More likely what is to stop Etihad taking a slice of Virgin Australia and investing serious capital to fast track 10 more A330s? Nothing! And with the $A so strong Australian domestic operations are far, far more lucrative to an offshore airline. There has never been a better time. This isn’t rocket science it’s holistically simply history repeating itself which it has an annoying habit of doing.
The wider issue of where our industry is at is a Four Corners type story. Would you like me to raise it with them? My story on QF 32 in Australian Aviation was the basis of the A380 piece they did recently.
I could go on and on but a number of people who have contacted me over this issue have said that they didn’t read all of your reply as it was too long. Of course there was a good reason for that but I am sure people may have already switched off to my ramblings by now.
Again I thank you for the time and trouble you have given to put your members’ concerns across and in perspective and I will strive to get these points across both in print and electronically ASAP.

Geoffrey Thomas

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17 thoughts on “Something you won’t see on Sunrise or in print

  1. crystals76

    regardless of your perspective, it is hard to fully appreciate the real story without both sides…. and the silence from QF management is deafening.

    i feel i am being naive in thinking that QF management are not doing anything, so simply what is going on in the background?

    QF is too big for rumors not to be leaking out…

  2. Daniel Tsang

    I strongly contest the allegations made by the Qantas engineer on Hong Kong.

    HAECO, a Swire Pacific company, does all maintenance work professionally. Cathay Pacific has its fleet doing its maintenance work there at HAECO, as well as Continental Airlines.

    If HAECO were so “unprofessional” and made all the mistakes the Qantas engineer union official alleged, will airlines all over the globe give the maintenance work to HAECO?

    Nonsense and this doesn’t make any sense at all.

    I think the Qantas Engineers Union official should be careful before making these wild allegations.

  3. breakfastburrito

    Daniel, perhaps you can refute the allegations one by one
    * What is the ratio of LAME’s at HAECO?
    * 747 Corrosion allegations.
    * 3 out 4 Engines mounted incorrectly.
    * Flaps rigged incorrectly.

    I am sure SP would not have made these claims without documentary evidence that could be tendered in court. There would be too much personal risk for him to make these claims without evidence. By using his real name & posting this information on public forums, these allegations would need to be able to withstand the highest scrutiny. If these claims are false, he would destroyed financially through the Australian court system. Why would he risk this?
    Do you have documentary evidence that these claims are false?

  4. Fueldrum

    Is HAECO the only provider available at Hong Kong? Or are there others as well? I’ve never been there.

  5. Tayug

    since when has Lufthansa Technik had a facility in Manilla, unless they land the planes at Tamworth and taxi them up the Fossikers Way to Manilla

  6. Caney

    Interesting article and documentary about alleged “pencil whipping” posted without comment

  7. David Klein

    Daniel Tsang,

    I tend to agree with your comments and having audited HAECO a number of years ago prior to my retirement from CASA, the maintenance deficiency issues raised even if correct are no more significant than the ones that were found on many occasions following Heavy Checks on B747’s conducted by QF and Forestaff maintenance engineers at Avalon in Victoria and required CASA to conduct special audits on the facility.


    Finding Luthansa Technik in Manilla is not difficult, you just type it into Google and you will find it has been established there since 2000.

  8. rowdy

    I think Tayug was just presenting a little reminder of the cruciality of attention to detail, with double-L Manilla just up the road from Tamworth in NSW and single-L Manila in the Philippines.

  9. joe airline pilot

    David Klein,

    Are you suggesting that an Australian facility has also tried to fix electrical wiring with a stapler?

  10. David Klein

    joe airline pilot,

    I don’t believe it’s in the interests of this forum for me to reveal the specific details of my many safety significant regulatory findings on QF as the principal CASA airworthiness inspector for almost 10 years, particularly to those who choose to hide behind the autonomy of a pseudonym. Needless to say the stapler attachment method found on the plastic joining strips of the floor path lighting would pale into insignificance.

  11. Derek

    Wasn’t the service deficiencies in last year’s galley leak incident attributed to maintenance done in Australia?


  12. Ben Sandilands


    True. No prisoners are taken here. However when the media ignores one side of the story I think there is a case to publish the contrary positions. And to help as much as is possible observations like this. Many thanks for that.

  13. *Qantas engineers versus Geoffrey Thomas updated | Plane Talking

    […] paperback but it is a relevant and interesting exchange and it can be read in full  by clicking here. Comments (0) | […]

  14. joe airline pilot

    David Klein,

    The difference between you and me is that I actually operate the aircraft. I want an Engineer who’s family will be flying on my aircraft.

    AS for using a pseudonym on a public forum; Australian airlines fire Pilots for speaking out publicly about safety. But CASA doesn’t see that as a safety issue either.

  15. Engineer Strike - Page 9

    […] the option of removing this and all other advertisements.  More For those who missed it, Steve Purvanis sent a letter to The West Australian's aviation reporter Geoffrey Thomas (circulated to industry contacts by Purvanis), after an appearance by Thomas on the Sunrise program […]

  16. Daniel Tsang

    Sorry for replying late, guys.

    One of my friends actually works in HAECO and he said he is unaware of any recent incident involving flaps being rigged incorrectly or any engines mounted incorrectly.

    If any, he told me, it would be a rare occurrence.

    Meanwhile, I found

  17. Daniel Tsang

    Meanwhile I found Geoffrey Thomas’ opinion that Qantas should order 10-20 777-300ERs to replace the 747-400 in addition to the A380 very interesting.

    Would Qantas increase its crew training cost by adding an entirely new family of aircraft at this stage because of errors made by Nixon in the past?

    Also, I’m not unaware if any negotiations between Qantas and Boeing have taken place over the 777-300ER.

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