Concerns about Qantaslink safety standards and ATSB and CASA secrecy are landing on the desk of independent SA Senator Nick Xenophon, as he plans his call for a Senate Inquiry into aviation training and standards in Australia.

The Qantaslink incident was of similar gravity to a dangerous missed approach in fog by a poorly piloted Jetstar A320 to Melbourne Airport on July 21, 2007, which Xenophon says should be examined by his proposed inquiry.

However, the Qantaslink incident received little general media pick-up after being trivialised in a final report issued by the ATSB in June after Qantas had approved its contents.

The alarming facts are that on December 26, 2008, a 50-seat Qantaslink Dash-300 turboprop  nearly stalled twice in 10 seconds while approaching Sydney Airport at the end of a flight from Moree.

The aircraft, widely used in regional Australia and on Canberra services, was being flown by a first officer with only 220 hours experience on the type, and supervised by a captain who was completing paperwork that should not have been left undone until the last moment of the approach.

During this critical period, the stick shaker activated twice in quick succession after the speed of the aircraft fell close to that at which it would stall, risking a loss of control near to the ground that could have ended in a disaster similar to that which killed 49 people in a turbo-prop crash last February in Buffalo.

The first officer on the Qantaslink flight disobeyed the instructions of the captain to abort the landing approach after the first stick shaker warning, and pressed on with the unstable approach leading to the second stick shaker warning.

Qantas pilots say this was a breakdown in cockpit procedural standards unknown in the carrier since the crash landing of a 747-400 at Bangkok in September 1999.

The incident is among those highlighted by pilots since Xenophon addressed the annual dinner of the Australian and International Pilots Association  in Sydney earlier this week and announced his intention to seek a Senate inquiry.

In a parliament where independent politicians will hold the balance of power in the Representatives and most likely, the Senate, Xenophon’s stance has resonated with  pilots concerned that cost cutting is destroying the culture of safety excellence in Australian carriers.

Xenophon has targeted pilot training in general, and safety breach reporting in particular, as causes for concern.

If he has his way, the suffocation of the truth about airline standards in Australia by spin and apathy is about to end.