A former pilot is suing Australian flag-carrier Qantas claiming she suffered post-traumatic stress disorder following a mid-air emergency when the plane she was flying lost one of its two engines. Jacinda Cottee is seeking A$780,000 (USD $630,000) in damages for the accident which she says was caused by poor maintenance by the aircraft operator.
Cottee worked as a First Officer for Cobham Aviation Services which provided Boeing 717 services for Qantas Link until the operation was brought in-house last year. She was working on Qantas flight QF1799 from Alice Springs to Brisbane in March 2018 when one of the engines failed more than 500km from its destination.
The pilots declared an emergency and the passengers were told to brace and prepared for a potential evacuation. Thankfully, the flight landed without further incident and no injuries were reported amongst the passengers or crew.
An engineering inspection later determined that there was damage to the compressor blades and the engine had to be replaced. Qantas, however, says that a review by engine manufacturer Rolls Royce found that the problem was the result of a manufacturing issue and not a maintenance problem.
“All Qantas aircraft are maintained to the highest safety standards, and our fleet of Boeing 717 aircraft have a 99.99 per cent reliability rate. This is the only engine shut down on QantasLink’s B717 fleet over a five-year period,” a spokesperson for Qantas said of the incident.
“Like all pilots, the first officer had been trained on how to respond in the event of an engine power failure,” the statement continued.
Cottee’s lawyers claim QantasLink breached its duty of care by failing to carry out adequate maintenance or inspections on the engines. She is claiming compensation for lost earnings.
Backing up her claim, Cottee argues that Boeing 717 maintenance was moved from Australia to Singapore due to poor workmanship in the airline’s Canberra facility.
Cottee says the case should highlight the need for airlines to offer adequate mental health support to crew following emergency incidents.
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.