'Overweight' kids lead to tricky take-off
PRIMARY school children mistakenly assigned the standard adult weight of 87kg each tipped the nose of a Qantas Airways plane, prompting the pilot to take corrective steps during a take-off.
Ground staff assigned 87 pupils to the back of a Boeing 737 plane on a May 9 domestic flight and then wrongly entered them as adults, changing the weight of the aircraft in the data supplied to the pilots, Australia's Transportation Safety Board said on its website yesterday.
Calculating the correct weight of an aircraft and its load is vital for both take-off and landing.
The mistake prompted the pilot to set the instruments incorrectly, making the plane nose-heavy, it said.
The load data given to the pilots had overstated the aircraft take-off weight by about 3.5 to 5 tonnes, according to the report.
The single-aisle plane with 150 passengers, including the group of 87 pupils, was flying to Perth in Western Australia from the national capital, Canberra.
To "lift off from the runway, the captain found that significant back pressure was required on the control column", the agency said in the report.
The captain was "conscious of the potential of striking the aircraft tail on the runway" if he put too much pressure on the controls.
Boeing pilots pull back on their controls to lift the front of the aircraft.
The school group made up more than half the passengers on the plane.
A list of passengers sent by travel agents had listed the average age of the group as 12 years.
All 87 children and eight adults in the group were recorded with the adult weight rather than the 32kg used for children.
British newspaper the Guardian reported Qantas as saying that "at no stage was this (the incident) a material risk to passenger safety".
However, the airline said it had since "reinforced the requirements for accurately recording adult and child weights to make sure this does not occur again".