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Mon, Jul 28, 2008

ATSB Says Exploding O2 Cylinder May Have Caused Qantas Damage

One Unaccounted For Following Decompression Incident

Investigators looking into Friday's explosive decompression incident onboard a Qantas Boeing 747-400 have identified a likely explanation -- that an exploding oxygen cylinder may be to blame.

As ANN reported, Flight 30 from Hong Kong to Melbourne diverted to Manila after those onboard heard a loud bang, and the plane's flight crew noticed the cabin was losing pressure. The jetliner made a safe landing at 11:15 am local time Friday.

As the flight's 346 passengers and 19 crewmembers exited the plane, those on the ground discovered the 747's right leading edge wing-to-body fairing was missing, and a five-foot hole was present in the cargo area fuselage wall behind it. Luggage could be seen jutting from the hole.

While officials shied away from positively stating an exploding O2 cylinder caused the incident, they did acknowledge that would explain a number of factors... including the fact one of the O2 cylinders listed on the flight manifest, and which was stored adjacent to the damaged area of the 747's fuselage, is now missing.

"I can say there is a cylinder in the bank of cylinders, there is a number of cylinders in that location, there is one cylinder that it not accounted for in the area associated with the damage," spokesman Neville Blyth, with the Australia Transport Safety Bureau, told The Associated Press.

Qantas has ordered inspections of all oxygen cylinders onboard its Boeing 747s for possible damage. Those inspections should be completed by Friday, officials said.

The ATSB continues to stress all signs point to a maintenance issue, and not a security breach or terror-related act.

"This is being treated as a safety investigation and until such time as any evidence comes to light that this was a security-related event, the investigation will be conducted by the ATSB, the civil aviation authority of the Philippines, as a standard safety investigation in accordance with the requirements," Blyth said.

The missing O2 cylinder might also be tied to a number of passenger reports of malfunctioning cabin oxygen masks, which deployed as the jet made its emergency descent from FL290. Some said their masks didn't work, while others reported having to share one mask among three passengers.

"Ours didn't come down, and my husband just about (passed out) because he didn't have any oxygen for about three minutes," passenger Beverley Doors told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Another passenger, David Saunders, said one man even resorted to smashing the overhead panel to force the O2 mask down.

FMI: www.qantas.com, www.atsb.gov.au/

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