SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUSTRALIA'S largest airline Qantas revealed a small body panel fell off a jet en route to Singapore on Friday, the latest malfunction to beset the carrier in recent weeks.
Routine checks on the Boeing 747-400 found the engine access panel was missing after it arrived at Singapore's Changi Airport, a Qantas spokeswoman said.
'This had absolutely no flight safety implications', she told AFP.
The non-structural panel, which measured 30 x 30 centimetres (12 x 12 inches), was replaced and the flight continued to London, she added.
The incident comes after weeks of embarrassing malfunctions for the airline, including a mid-air blast, believed to be caused by an exploding oxygen bottle, which blew a hole into the fuselage of a plane last month and forced an emergency landing in Manila.
On Wednesday, a B747-300 landed without incident despite the power in one of its four engines reducing to idle on approach into Auckland airport.
The following day, a Qantas Boeing 767 experienced an hydraulic failure, which affected its steering as it landed at Sydney airport and left a trail of hydraulic fluid on the runway, forcing its temporary closure.
Earlier this week, Qantas pulled six planes from service after it found that a maintenance procedure, reportedly designed to stop cracking in the forward pressure bulkhead, had been omitted.
Qantas, which next month will take delivery of the first of its new 20 super-jumbo Airbus A380s, has said while recent events had hurt its reputation, it is probably still the safest airline in the world.
Qantas, known as the 'Flying Kangaroo', has never lost a jet plane to an accident.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), which is undertaking several reviews of Qantas' safety and maintenance, said on Friday that if it found any problems it would require Qantas to take action. -- AFP