Qantas Airways has inspected dozens of its aircraft and notified some overseas carriers after it was discovered Qantas engineers at Melbourne airport mistakenly pumped nitrogen into the emergency oxygen tanks of one of Qantas’ Boeing 747s.

A spokeswoman in Canberra for the Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) says Qantas engineers had mistaken a nitrogen cart for an oxygen cart and used the nitrogen cart to pump nitrogen into the 747’s emergency oxygen tanks.

Nitrogen is used to fill aircraft tyres and if inhaled nitrogen can cause a person to quickly black out.

The CASA spokeswoman says fortunately one of Qantas’ other engineering personnel noticed the mistake before the 747-300 departed.

As a consequence of the gaffe the airline has inspected 51 of its aircraft, says the spokeswoman, adding that the 51 aircraft could have been pumped with nitrogen but once inspected were found to have no irregularities.

She also says Qantas has notified foreign carriers that use Qantas ground engineering services at Melbourne airport.

A Qantas spokesman in Sydney confirms the airline has notified some of its airline customers and inspected some Qantas aircraft.

But he declines to disclose the name of the airline customers although Air New Zealand has said publicly Qantas notified it and ANZ engineers have had to inspect some of its aircraft as a precaution.

A spokesman in Canberra for the Australian Transportation Safety Bureau (ATSB) says they are aware of the matter but “we are not investigating this occurrence” although Qantas executive general manager, David Cox, says in a statement the ATSB did put forward some recommendations which Qantas has since implemented.

He also says the airline has introduced some additional procedures to ensure there is no repeat of the same mistake.

Cox stresses that - even though the 747-300 had nitrogen pumped into its oxygen tanks on 25 September – it was “only a small amount of nitrogen” and the “error was quickly detected” before the aircraft departed.

“The entire tank was purged and then refilled with oxygen” and the airline inspected its “entire 747 and Airbus A330 fleets” and “no other aircraft were found to be contaminated”, he adds.

Source:'s sister premium news service Air Transport Intelligence news