The non-prosecution of Jetstar for failing to notify the Australian Transport Safety Bureau of a reportable air safety incident demands answers as to why the Qantas subsidiary is untouchable when it breaks the law.

The ATSB moved immediately to shut down its exposure to public discussion of the seriously botched Jetstar  missed approach at Melbourne Airport on  July 21, 2007, by announcing it would not engage in any discussion beyond a press conference at which its final report into the incident was released.

The ATSB report says bluntly that Jetstar learned on August 2 that the incident, in which an A320 sank to within 11.5 metres of the ground when it aborted a landing at a fog-shrouded Melbourne Airport, had triggered a ground proximity warning in the cockpit, where two pilots were struggling to comprehend the situation because of flawed training given them by carrier.

It is a compulsory requirement of the Transport Safety investigation Act 2003 (regulation 2.4) that such an alert in a passenger airliner must be reported to the ATSB within 72 hours of being detected.

But Jetstar did not acknowledge the situation, or  provide all the details of the  July 21, 2007 incident to the ATSB until ordered to do on September 11, 2007, after reports about the incident were published in Crikey and Aviation Business.

On December 1, 2006, the ATSB had no hesitation in referring Lessbrook Pty Ltd (which operated under the name Transair)  to the Director of Public Prosecutions  for its failures to report aviation safety occurrences to the bureau as required by legislation.

Yet when a big airline, a subsidiary of Qantas, failed to report the critical details of its incident, the ATSB took no enforcement action, and shut down debate.

It is a situation that smells badly. The ATSB is acknowledged for the quality of its aviation investigations, but where is its integrity and consistency if it cannot deal with the regulations being broken, and flaunted, by a major Australian airline?