- Qantas flight returned to Sydney airport with hydraulic systems issue
- Once on the ground, the plane started to fill with a “thick haze”
- Qantas says passengers reported “sore eyes and itchy throats”
- Two passengers were injured during evacuation, one taken to hospital
Qantas has praised the quick-thinking actions of its pilots and cabin crew who evacuated an Airbus A330 via emergency slides and through the airbridge at Syndey airport earlier today after thick smoke filled the cabin. One passenger onboard Qantas flight QF575 to Perth described a “burning smell” as the smoke started to fill the cabin after it returned to Sydney with a hydraulics system issue.
“The crew did a great job of putting their training into action and following the procedures for a set of circumstances like this,” explained Captain Debbie Slade, head of fleet safety at Qantas who had been offered up by the airline to brief media.
“We totally understand this would have been a very unusual and probably alarming experience for our customers, so we thank them for giving crew their full cooperation,” Captain Slade continued – unlike in a number of recent evacuations, passengers do not appear to have taken any hand luggage with them on this occasion.
The 17-year old Airbus A330 had departed Sydney at around 8.45 am this morning but was forced to turn back after just 20 minutes in the air when a potential issue with one of the three hydraulic systems on the aircraft was detected. The plane diverted to Syndey where it landed without incident and taxied to the gate as normal.
But once back at the terminal and parked at a gate, smoke started to fill the cabin, prompting an almost immediate evacuation
“When we got back to the gate, the cabin started to fill with smoke and basically the captain started screaming ‘Evacuate!’,” explained Ally Kemp, 20.
“It took a few seconds to sink in and then basically it was a mad scurry to go down the slides and get off the plane which was just crazy.”
Another passenger on the plane said the smell had started while they were still taxiing to the gate, describing the odour as a burning-like smell.
Evacuation down under! Passengers @qantas #QF575 🇦🇺 use emergency slides: cabin filled with smoke, A330 was forced to land due to hydraulics problem ✈️ #avgeek #planespotting #incident #aviation #potn Via @ArjanSPL pic.twitter.com/UatPD9nD8f
— Menno Swart (@MennoSwart) December 15, 2019
Passengers were evacuated through the airbridge that had already been attached to the aircraft, as well as three emergency slides (other’s may not have been used due to the presence of ground equipment). Two passengers were treated for injuries sustained from using the slides and another passenger was taken to hospital as a precaution.
A Qantas spokesperson said some customers had reported “sore eyes and itchy throats” after the incident. Engineers have not yet established the cause of a hydraulic fluid leak but the airline said the “thick haze” was likely caused by hydraulic fluid entering the air conditioning unit.
“While customers may have thought it was smoke, there was no fire,” a spokesperson explained.
Both the Australian civil aviation authority and accident investigation board have been notified and the ATSB has opened an inquiry. “We’ll investigate exactly what happened, including liaising with Airbus, before this aircraft is returned to service,” Captain Slade added.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.