“It is clear Australian lives have already been put at risk by this airline – the same aircraft with a fault which led to the crash was flown between Perth and Bali 78 times. The Minister must be able to guarantee the safety of passengers flying in Australia and clearly in this case he simply cannot,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
An ABC programme last night showed poor training standards for pilots, lack of maintenance and questions raised about whether Australia’s approval of AirAsia’s operations here is linked to political considerations regarding relations with Indonesia. Student pilots who failed flight simulator tests in Australia went on to receive their licenses in Indonesia, including one who paid a bribe to an inspector, the ABC alleges.
“This Government has already shown it is happy to play politics with people’s lives through its abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal. Now we see an airline allowed to expand in Australia where there are real concerns about its safety record. The Minister must respond to these issues urgently,” Sheldon added.
A report into the crash by Indonesia’s National Transport Safety Committee last December showed a persistent problem with a crack on the plane’s rudder prompted the pilots to restart the computer system which in turn disabled the autopilot. “The manual handling resulted in the aircraft entered prolonged stall and upset condition, which was beyond the capability of the crew to recover,” according to the report. The problem with the plane’s rudder had been recorded 23 times in the previous 12 months.
Flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320-200, crashed en route from Surabaya to Singapore on December 28, 2014. Following the crash the TWU wrote to the Minister calling for all AirAsia flights to be suspended pending an audit of the airline’s staff training, maintenance of aircraft and industrial relations conditions.
The TWU has also raised concerns about other foreign airline’s standards. Qatar Airways has also expanded its services into Australia despite being sanctioned by the UN labour body over its sacking of pregnant employees.
“‘Open Skies’ policies allowing foreign airlines greater access to Australian routes are importing a culture of lower standards on safety and employee rights which ultimately threatens the livelihoods of aviation workers here. It is the job of the Government to ensure Australian standards on safety and employee conditions are upheld,” Sheldon added.