Yesterday, Malaysiakini published Malaysian poser in mid-air drama where it quoted an Aussie newspaper The Daily Telegraph which claimed to have quoted an anonymous senior Qantas pilot as saying that the rupture of a section of the aeroplane fuselage could have been due to the company’s outsourcing of maintenance to Malaysia, implying piss-poor Asian maintenance standards.
Yes, that old story of 'he told me, she told me, he told me, she told me' ... not unlike Balasubramaniam's Stat Dec ;-)
The tabloid went on to claim the pilot said: “Qantas outsourcing maintenance to Malaysia is certainly worrying a lot of us pilots. There has been aircraft coming back with dodgy staples to secure wiring.”
In my blogging response in Aussie blame game against Malaysian aircraft maintenance I questioned The Daily Telegraph’s accusation – in fact I termed it as bull - stating my reasons for doubts as follows:
(1) the same accusation involving ‘dodgy staples to secure wiring’ was made against maintenance in Singapore a couple of months back.
Now it's Malaysia, ... and maybe next month it may well be India or Hong Kong or South Korea?
(2) the worries of Aussie aircraft (Qantas and other airlines) maintenance engineers about losing their jobs as their airlines shift maintenance work offshore to keep cost down, particularly in the current oil price crisis.
Thus there has been a scare campaign about ‘shoddy’ Asian aircraft maintenance quality – would anyone who is familiar with Singapore's engineering quality ever believe that? And to be fair to our own country, MAS is not far behind in terms of excellence in aircraft maintenance.
(3) quoting a ‘senior anonymous Qantas pilot’ blaming Malaysian maintenance standards has not been even remotely plausible, as this sort of concerns lies in the specialist domain of engineers, and therefore would normally be expressed by aircraft maintenance engineers rather than pilots (who don't go looking for signs of ‘dodgy staples to secure wiring’).
(4) it hasn’t even been confirmed yet that that particular Qantas aeroplane was serviced in Malaysia (or Singapore).
(5) The Daily Telegraph is a politically conservative tabloid which tends to pamper to Aussie parochial nationalistic feelings.
I made the analysis underlying my doubts about that wild allegation against Malaysian aircraft maintenance standards even before the Star reported in MAS denies Qantas senior pilot’s claims.
MAS senior general manager Mohd Roslan Ismail said that MAS only handled the engineering and maintenance of Qantas’ Boeing 737 aircraft and not the 747. The Qantas aeroplane that suffered the incident is a B747.
… and as I said, I doubt that the ‘anonymous senior Qantas pilot’ was even what he/she had been reported to be ... a pilot!
Well, today the Sydney Morning Herald, a newspaper that I find more balanced, reported that Aussie safety experts believe a faulty oxygen bottle as the likely cause of the minor explosion suffered by the Qantas B747, or perhaps even a pressurized container inside a piece of luggage, like say, a can of deodorant or hair spray.
Qantas CEO, Geoff Dixon, on being interviewed, immediately dismissed the original allegations of corrosion (which had been scurrilously attributed to poor Malaysian maintenance inspection). He said that a preliminary check of the hole in the fuselage had found no sign of corrosion.
He went on to detail what checks that particular aeroplane had undergone just prior to the incident, stating: "This was an absolutely serious incident; we do not downplay this. Our team has not had access to the aircraft as yet. We cannot speculate at this stage the cause of the accident but we can say that we've had a preliminary look at the records of the aircraft involved.”
"It did a D check in Sydney, which is the major check for aircraft, in 2004. Subsequently it did a C check at Avalon in 2006 and another C check in 2008. They were routine checks and nothing untoward was found."
All above checks done in Australia were designed to look for corrosion. None was detected nor any discovered in the just ruptured section of the fuselage.
Then he said the words we Malaysians (and Singaporeans) knew but still wanted to hear: The plane had never been serviced overseas.
One lesson - don't always take reports by Western press as the gospel truth - some are certainly far superior to our mainstream media but some are just as bad, if not worse.