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AFP investigates Qantas plane 'sabotage'
AFP investigates Qantas plane 'sabotage'

Andrew Heasley
November 2, 2011.

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The Australian Federal Police are investigating a claim that a Qantas jet was sabotaged last week while undergoing maintenance at Brisbane Airport.

While the federal police are yet to divulge the nature of the alleged sabotage, it centres on damage to wiring during an upgrade of the aircraft's inflight entertainment system.

The alleged incident occurred on October 26 - during the airline's heated industrial dispute with staff but before Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce grounded the whole airline.

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It was reported to the federal police on October 27, police confirmed.

"The AFP is aware of an alleged incident involving a Qantas aircraft, which was undergoing maintenance at Brisbane Airport, that occurred on Wednesday 26 October," the federal police said in a statement.

"As this is an ongoing matter it would be inappropriate for the AFP to comment further," the police said.

But the federal secretary of the Licenced Aircraft Maintenance Engineers Union, Steve Purvinas, rejected the notion that the incident was sabotage.

It was his union's engineer members who spotted damage to an entertainment system wiring loom as it was being fitted, he said.

"It happened last week when some wires were found to be damaged in a wiring loom that was being fitted to a new [entertainment] system," Mr Purvinas said.

"The most likely situation is that these wires were damaged during manufacturing.

"It was actually members of ours who picked it up - and reported it," he said.

The wiring looms normally come preassembled, Mr Purvinas said.

"It was during the fitment of those looms that our members noticed that some wires were damaged.

"It's quite often that when we're installing new wires in aircraft that looms are too short, or that pins have been put the wrong way around.

"Any suggestion that it was sabotage from our members is clearly another attack by an airline that is leaking information to the press on purpose to take the heat off them for their actions [in grounding the airline] on the weekend," Mr Purvinas said.

Qantas said in a statement that, when it became aware of the incident "involving damage to the wiring of a Boeing 767 aircraft", it immediately informed the federal police.

"There was no operational safety risk at any stage," the Qantas statement said.

- with Glenda Kwek

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