Thursday, January 03, 2008

Nitrogen in plane emergency air supply

'Fatal' gas pumped into Qantas jet - article in The Age Australia on 16 December 2007 by Matthew Benns.

POTENTIALLY fatal gas being pumped into a passenger jet's emergency oxygen tanks in Australia has sparked a worldwide safety investigation. The Australian Safety Transport Bureau confirmed yesterday that Qantas engineers accidentally put nitrogen into the oxygen tanks of a Boeing 747 at Melbourne Airport.

Non-flammable nitrogen is commonly used to fill aircraft tyres.

The aviation source said: "Qantas took delivery of the new nitrogen cart 10 months ago.

"It looked exactly like the old oxygen cart. When the attachments did not fit they went and took them off the old oxygen cart and started using it."

The mistake was spotted by an aircraft engineer and reported to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, which declared it a one-off incident. But the aviation source said: "This could have affected at least 175 planes."

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau spokeswoman said Qantas identified 21 aircraft at risk and another 30 at minor risk because of oxygen top-ups.

The planes were inspected and no positive results found.

People often think that having unique connections on gas bottles, tankers etc. prevents errors. As this shows it does not as it is always possible to convert the connections. In fact unique connections can form a false sense of security if you are not careful.

Andy Brazier

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