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Boss says Qantas 'probably safest' airline

/ Source: The Associated Press

Qantas Airways' chief executive Geoff Dixon said Monday that his airline is "probably the safest" in the world after Australia's aviation agency launched a review of its safety standards.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority announced the review Sunday after a Boeing 767 with 200 passengers on board returned to Sydney airport soon after takeoff Saturday because air traffic controllers saw fluid streaming from a wing.

On July 25, an explosion on board a Qantas Boeing 747 en route from London to Australia blew a hole in the fuselage and caused rapid decompression in the passenger cabin. Last week, an Australian domestic flight was forced to return to the southern city of Adelaide after a wheel-bay door failed to close.

"We have no evidence to suggest there are problems within Qantas, but we think it's prudent and wise to go in with a new special team and take an additional look at a range of operational issues within Qantas," Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokesman Peter Gibson said Sunday.

Dixon said there was no pattern behind the three malfunctions.

"We do know we have no systemic problem in this company," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Still, he said the Australian flagship airline's reputation for safety was suffering from media coverage of the mechanical failures. "It is our job to make sure we get that reputation back," he said.

Qantas is one of the world's oldest airlines and boasts of having never lost a jet aircraft in an accident. Qantas executive general manager of engineering David Cox said the incidents were part of the "normal run" of business.

"We're not afraid of the scrutiny," Cox told ABC.

Dixon will be replaced in November by Alan Joyce, who currently heads Qantas' discount carrier Jetstar. Joyce said Sunday that rumors that Qantas would shift to the budget market were incorrect.