A packed Qantas jetliner lost the use of crucial flight instruments last week after an oxygen cylinder exploded and blasted a large hole in the fuselage, an air safety investigator said Wednesday.
The explosion Friday during a flight from London to Melbourne forced the pilots of the Boeing 747-400 to rapidly descend thousands of feet and make an emergency landing in the Philippines.
Julian Walsh, director of aviation safety for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, said investigators found that the jet’s three landing instrument systems and its anti-skid system were not working when they arrived in Manila.
“However, evidence indicates that all the aircraft’s main systems, including engines and hydraulics, were functioning normally,” Walsh told reporters.
Walsh said shrapnel from the oxygen tank blasted through the floor of the passenger cabin, broke a door handle and lodged in the ceiling.
“The approach to Manila airport was conducted in visual conditions, and it should be noted that the pilot had other navigation instruments available should the conditions not have been visual,” he said.
But another investigator, Ian Brokenshire, said later that the failed instruments would have made landing “extremely difficult” if conditions over Manila had been cloudy or foggy.