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
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
``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
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
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.