After giving 84 passengers a new meaning to the term “bracket creep” in a hard landing at Darwin on 7 February, exclusive images of the damage to the Qantaslink Boeing 717 have fallen from a passing jet in front of Crikey Towers.
The jet suffered extensive wrinkling or creep in areas of the fuselage rear of the wing, as shown in these images. A set of tyres also display impact-induced cracking of considerable magnitude.
The jet was hidden from public view by Qantas for days in a Darwin hangar and kept out of the general media until Crikey broke the story on 11 February.
At that time it was a candidate for being the first hull loss of a Qantas jet, or any jet airliner, in Australia. (Qantas “retired” and sold a bent Boeing 707 involved in a steep dive and recovery while flying between Bangkok and Bahrain in 1969.)
This now wrinkled jet was flown for Qantaslink by National Jet, the South Australian contractor currently having its pilot training and checking processes examined as part of an Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigation of the incident.
National Jet won the outsourced flight contract for its excellence and low bid and has been repeatedly endorsed by Qantas as meeting all of its safety and service standards.
The jet was supplied by Allco Leasing, an arm of the seriously compromised Allco Finance Group that was a party to the private equity bid so enthusiastically endorsed by Qantas before it went pear shaped last May, and once stood to participate in the proposed FleetCo spin off that was being pushed by the Airline Partners Australia consortium.
Qantas says the jet, worth about $35 million, will be repaired, rather than cashed out by insurance as a write-off. Industry sources say this might cost it more than $100 million, but pride in this case comes after a heavy fall, and the airline doesn’t want to score its first ever jet hull loss.
Those little wrinkles are going to require very costly cosmetic surgery to smooth out.
Qantas made a similar investment in rebuilding the Boeing 747-400 it punted into a golf course at the old Bangkok airport in 1999, which ripped off an engine, pushed the nose wheel up into a bulge that was punched into the middle of first class, and tore off the main gear.
The bill for those “repairs” is believed to have been well in excess of $100 million.