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Qantas says holed jumbo jet can be repaired

/ Source: The Associated Press

Australian airline Qantas will preserve its track record of never losing a jet plane in an accident by repairing a gaping hole in the side of a jetliner caused by an exploding oxygen bottle, the airline said Thursday.

The explosion last Friday during a flight from London to the Australian city of Melbourne forced the pilots of the Boeing 747-400 to rapidly descend thousands of feet and make an emergency landing in the Philippines with four instrument systems disabled, accident investigators said Wednesday.

But the world's second oldest airline after KLM Royal Dutch Airlines — regarded as one of the world's safest airlines — will repair the damaged jet, an airline spokesman said.

"We certainly believe it is repairable," the spokesman said under the company's usual condition of anonymity.

Paul Cousins of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, which represents 1,500 engineers employed by Australia's flagship airline, agreed that the aircraft appeared to be salvageable.

"I would expect Qantas to guard fairly closely their reputation for never having lost a jet aircraft, but in this particular case, from what I've seen from pictures, the aircraft is repairable," Cousins said.

Qantas raised eyebrows by spending almost $100 million on repairs to a 747-400 that ran off a runway during a storm in Bangkok in 1999 rather than writing the aircraft off.

But Cousins said engineers and pilots agreed that that aircraft "was as good as new" after the repairs.

A Qantas-leased Boeing 717 jet came close to being written off after a heavy landing in the Australian city of Darwin in February. But Cousins said the airframe was found to be undamaged and that aircraft was also repaired. No one was injured.

While Qantas has never lost a jet, a propeller-driven Lockheed Super Constellation owned by the airline crashed and burned during an aborted takeover at Mauritius in 1960. There were no casualties.