Qantas is in damage control this morning trying to hide a Qantaslink Boeing 717 that was so severely damaged in a hard landing at Darwin last Thursday that it may be a write-off.

No reports, no photos, no survivor interviews, indeed no recognition of any sort has appeared in the media for almost four days. No-one was injured in the “incident” that dared not show its face until an inquiry into it was officially listed on the air safety data base today.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau says it is investigating the incident which happened in a jet configured with 115 seats and flown by National Jet under contract to Qantas.

The air safety investigator says on its website that “On final approach the aircraft entered an area of high sink and made a heavy landing. Wrinkling was later found in the aft fuselage. Damage: Substantial”.

Hundreds of jets enter areas of high sink every day worldwide. And with rare exceptions, they don’t “wrinkle” or end up being rebuilt or scrapped.

ATSB investigations like these look clinically at pilot experience and the training and checking procedures of carriers, as well as factors flight crew are required to deal with, such as wind shear or degraded engine performance that might have affected this flight.

If the damage leads to a write-off it will be the first time this has happened to any passenger jet of size in Australia.

There were 11 Boeing 717s in the Qantaslink fleet.

Peter Fray

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