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The Sydney Morning Herald

Virgin Blue captain loses stripes over hot landing

Author: Darren Goodsir, Transport Editor
Date: 29/06/2002
Words: 365
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News And Features
Page: 6
The captain of a Virgin Blue aircraft that overshot a runway during a ``hot landing" has been demoted as authorities investigate claims that the crew tried to cover up the safety breach.

It is the first serious safety issue experienced by the low-cost airline since it began flying two years ago.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau confirmed yesterday that it had ordered an investigation and would require the captain and other staff to be interviewed.

Initial reports indicated that Flight 467 from Brisbane approached the runway at Darwin International Airport ``too high and too fast" because of sudden blustery tail winds.

Instead of going around, the captain decided to continue the landing.

The aircraft, carrying 92 passengers and seven crew, touched down far into the runway and stopped beyond the safety markings. There were no injuries and the Boeing 737-800, which stayed on the tarmac, was not damaged. But the incident, which happened at 11.40pm on June 11, was not reported immediately. Transport safety officials were alerted by airport staff who witnessed the event.

``The incident itself is serious but not devastating, but the issue of concern is that it was not reported as it should have been," an aviation source said. ``That will be the major aspect of the inquiry."

Virgin Blue's head of commercial, David Huttner, said the captain, a former Air New Zealand and Ansett pilot with 28 years of commercial flying experience, had been reprimanded and demoted. He would be eligible to apply for retraining as a captain in six months.

``While the report was filed within the legal time frame, it did not meet our expectations internally, as it was not brought to our immediate attention," Mr Huttner said.

Pilots had been warned that the Darwin runway had been shortened due to some repairs.

It is understood the air safety regulator is also monitoring Virgin Blue's maintenance records, not least because of the huge strain put on the fleet since Ansett's demise.

Virgin Blue has the youngest fleet in the world but its aircraft have been operating non-stop as the airline seeks to pick up market share.

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