by Talek Harris
SYDNEY, June 11, 2009 (AFP) - An Australian flight was forced to make an emergency landing on a remote Pacific island Thursday, just days after an Air France tragedy involving the same model of Airbus plane, officials said.
The budget flight from Japan put down on Guam after a fire broke out in the cockpit, company officials said.
Smoke and then flames were seen near a cockpit window about four hours into Jetstar flight JQ20 from Osaka to Australia's Gold Coast, prompting flight crew to scramble to douse the fire before landing on Guam.
Nobody was hurt among the 203 mostly Japanese passengers and crew travelling on the Airbus A330-200, which touched down at about 2:20 am (1620 GMT Wednesday) and they were sent to nearby hotels.
The incident involves the same model of aircraft as the June 1 Air France disaster when all 228 on board an A330 flying from Brazil were killed after a mystery accident over the Atlantic.
"It is understood there was smoke in the cockpit followed by the right hand cockpit window area catching fire before being extinguished by technical crew," a Jetstar statement said.
"The cockpit window fire was contained to the cockpit only of the aircraft before it was extinguished."
Australian officials were flying to Guam to probe the fire while Jetstar, operated by flag-carrier Qantas, was sending another A330 from Sydney to pick up the passengers and crew.
"A team of investigators... will travel to Guam this morning to commence the investigation," the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in a statement.
One aviation expert said early suspicions would focus on a short-circuit in the window's heating system.
"These sorts of things just aren't supposed to happen. They will want to know why it happened," Geoffrey Thomas, senior editor of Air Transport World, told Sky News.
"It's exactly the same model as the Air France one, although different manufacturers provide different parts for these aircraft."
Airbus has stressed the safety of its A330s after the Air France tragedy, in which investigators believe an air-speed sensor fault may have caused the pilot either to fly too slow and stall, or too fast, ripping the plane's body apart.
Qantas this week said it had no plans to replace the air-speed sensors on its A330s as they are made by a different manufacturer.
It rejected any link between the Air France accident and October's mishap when a Qantas A330 went into two sudden and steep dives over Western Australia, causing several serious injuries and prompting an emergency landing.