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Qantas Jumbo Jets Grounded for Days After Wings Clip

By Mary Schlangenstein
March 01, 2014 12:04 AM EST 32 Comments
A Boeing Co. 747 aircraft operated by Qantas Airways Ltd. taxis on the runway at Sydney Airport in Sydney.
Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg
A Boeing Co. 747 aircraft operated by Qantas Airways Ltd. taxis on the runway at Sydney Airport in Sydney.

Two Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN) jumbo jets will be grounded for days to fix wingtip damage caused when they clipped each other at Los Angeles International Airport.

The airline and Australian regulators are investigating the collision late on Feb. 27 between the Airbus Group NV (AIR) A380, the world’s largest passenger plane, and a Boeing Co. (BA) 747-400 as the aircraft were being towed from a hangar, Sydney-based Qantas said yesterday.

“We have to properly assess the damage and then have it repaired,” Qantas said in an e-mailed statement. “We don’t have a firm timeline but it is likely to take a few days, depending on whether parts are required.”

A380s and 747s are so big that even a glancing blow while under tow can be enough to keep a damaged plane out of service, and Qantas will temporarily replace the Los Angeles duo with other aircraft. While no passengers were aboard, the accident disrupted travel for hundreds of people because both jets were being prepared for flights to Australia.

Inspectors from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration went to the airport yesterday to examine the planes and take photos, Ian Gregor, an agency spokesman, said in an e-mail.

The agency typically will examine the performance of the tug driver and any other workers involved, Gregor said. The planes weren’t under the authority of FAA air-traffic controllers at the time of the collision, he said.

Full Flights

The double-decker A380 can carry 480 people and the Boeing jumbo seats 350, and both flights were almost sold out, Qantas said. Passengers were placed in hotels until they could be put on other flights, it said.

A Boeing 747-400 has a wingspan of 211 feet (64 meters), while the A380’s is 262 feet, or 80 meters.

The accident occurred a day after Qantas announced it would cut 5,000 jobs and reduce its fleet to lower costs. The airline said it is retiring some of its 747s and deferring delivery of eight A380s.

The entry of foreign airlines that boosted the number of available seats they had by 46 percent in the four years to 2012, rising fuel costs and weak economic conditions has put pressure on the Australian aviation market, Qantas Chairman Leigh Clifford said today in an editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The company must “move faster, do more and reform more deeply to modernize its cost base and build a competitive future,” he wrote. Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce is the right man to lead the change the company needs, and deliver on the plan outlined this week, he said.

Current government policy which restricts foreign ownership of the airline doesn’t allow for fair competition, Clifford said. He urged Australian politicians not to use the issue as a “political football” and to resolve it swiftly.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at maryc.s@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net; Anand Krishnamoorthy at anandk@bloomberg.net

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