Qantas ‘heavy belly’ investigated

A QANTAS passenger jet was loaded with unplanned cargo to the extent of exceeding its maximum structural take-off weight by about 884 kg, an investigation has found.

Two years on the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has issued the result of its investigation of the weight and balance event on a Qantas A330?303 on 6 March 2009. The cargo was stowed aboard the aircraft for dispatch on a scheduled international passenger service between Sydney, New South Wales and Hong Kong.

Operational changes prior to the aircraft’s dispatch required an adjustment of the planned load, with the load controller electing to offload a pallet of freight originally scheduled for that flight, and substituting it with another pallet in the load management system. The load instructions were not altered and resulted in the aircraft exceeding its structural maximum taxi weight by 384kg. It also resulted in the flight crew entering inaccurate centre of gravity and zero fuel weight data into a number of the aircraft’s systems.

Nobody picked up the error when the final manifest check was completed and handed to the aircrew and due to delays in notification the aircraft operated another 10 sectors before maintenance inspections for an overweight taxi were completed.

Qantas has since implemented several changes to the process for managing load control activities and appointed a load control standards officer.

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