Experts were on Saturday working on the theory that an explosion in the luggage hold or a broken panel caused a fuselage break in a Qantas plane that made an emergency landing in Manila, a source close to the investigation said.
Regardless of the cause, the source said the 365 passengers and crew on the flight from Hong Kong to Melbourne on Friday were lucky to be alive after a hole was punched in the 747’s belly at 29,000 feet.
“While it is too early to say what actually caused the hole, we will be looking at two possibilities ... something exploded in one of the bags or a panel came loose on the fuselage” the source, who asked not to be identified, told AFP.
The source said the explosion might have been caused by a pressurised container inside a piece of luggage, saying a bomb was unlikely.
Qantas officials and experts from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau arrived in Manila on Saturday and immediately began working with Philippine authorities to determine what caused the explosion.
Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon denied corrosion was responsible for the gaping hole after a newspaper report in Australia labelled the 16-year-old plane a “rust bucket”.
Dixon said he was “horrified” at the sight the stricken jet on the tarmac in Manila but defended the airline’s safety and maintenance record.
Daily Telegraph reported that engineers found a lot of corrosion on the plane during a refit earlier this year but Dixon said no rust was found at the place where the damage occurred.
Meanwhile, the plane’s passengers completed their interrupted journey to Australia, staging emotional reunions with relatives and recalling how they thought they would die as the plane plunged towards the South China Sea.