Joe Eakins, the whistleblower pilot fired by Jetstar last month for expressing his concerns about the carrier’s  safety standards, has been reinstated by the Qantas low cost subsidiary.

The development is  part of a confidential settlement reached in advance of legal action in Fair Work Australia appealing his dismissal.

It also comes in advance of a resumption of a Senate inquiry into pilot training and safety standards at Australian airlines which has referenced a serious incident involving a Jetstar A320 that made a botched approach to Melbourne Airport in fog in July 2007.

That incident was not investigated by the ATSB until reports in Crikey and Aviation Business in September 2007 resulted in the safety investigator demanding to see a  Jetstar dossier which revealed that the jet had come within metres of hitting the ground and that its ground proximity warming system had been triggered twice.

It was then discovered that Jetstar had changed the standard operating procedures for a missed approach in an A320 in breach of the conditions of the aircraft’s certification, that it had conducted no safety evaluation of the changes, and that it had generated no documentation concerning the changes that the ATSB could find.

CASA did nothing about the situation and Qantas, even in its submission to the Senate Inquiry, failed to acknowledge that the changes had been made, instead blaming the pilots for not revealing that the ground proximity warning alerts had occurred.

Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) President Barry Jackson welcomed the decision by Jetstar Australia management, describing it as a “victory for common sense.”

“This is welcome news for Joe, his family and for the piloting community ahead of Christmas,” he said.

“There was huge strength of feeling amongst pilots about such extraordinary, punitive action by the management team and we were also very confident about the legal position we were taking to Fair Work, that Joe’s sacking was an unfair dismissal and an adverse action against a union delegate.”

“Nonetheless Jetstar management have pulled back from the brink and that is a good, common sense outcome that means a young pilot’s career has not been trashed and Joe can go back to doing what he loves.”

“We look forward to the current Senate inquiry into pilot training and safety critically examining this entire incident and perhaps recommending stronger whistle blower legislation to protect young workers like Joe who do speak out.”

AIPA managed a public appeal that raised over $40,000 from pilots and the general community for Joe in the month he was without work.  Over 650 pilots also signed a petition calling for Joe’s reinstatement.

Postscript: This statement is now being circulated about the reinstatement.  It changes nothing in relation to the Senate inquiry and how CASA, the ATSB, Qantas and Jetstar handled the serious incident at Melbourne Airport that is part of the terms of reference of that inquiry.

The following public statement is issued by Jetstar Airways and Joseph Eakins. “Following discussions directly with Jetstar, I am pleased to accept the airline’s offer to be reinstated and immediately return to my role as an A330 First Officer,” Mr Eakins said. “I will return to Jetstar on the same employment arrangement and hold my previous level of seniority. “I welcome the opportunity to now rejoin my Pilot colleagues at Jetstar and be part of its future. “The unfair dismissal claim I had made against Jetstar has now ended. “My ambition is to have a long term career with Jetstar and I never intended my comments to bring into question the sound and proactive safety culture that exists within Jetstar. “I apologise for any inference that might have been drawn from my comments that I was questioning Jetstar’s safety culture because that was certainly not my intention. “I acknowledge that I made public statements in regards to Jetstar’s safety system and its safe flying operations, its Pan Asian network growth strategy and the level of remuneration of Jetstar Pilots
employed in Singapore that could mislead the public and had the potential to damage Jetstar’s reputation. “This is something I did not intend and which I regret doing and Jetstar has accepted my apology for this.
“Jetstar does have appropriate avenues for line Pilots like myself to effectively communicate to all levels of the airline. I am now aware of the best and most effective way to do this.” Jetstar Australia and New Zealand CEO David Hall said he welcomed Mr Eakins back into Jetstar and was pleased that we managed to resolve this matter following direct dialogue with Mr Eakins.