Quantas grounds six planes to check maintenance

Australia's airline safety body said today it would expand its investigation of Qantas after the company announced it temporarily pulled six aircraft from service because of irregularities in maintenance records.

Three flights were canceled Tuesday night after Qantas pulled the planes. It was the latest in a spate of incidents with the airline since one of its planes made an emergency landing in Manila last month after an explosion tore a large hole in the fuselage.

Qantas said the six B737-400s would be removed from service while the airline cross-checks maintenance records relating to work carried out at one of its Australian facilities.

David Cox, the executive general manager of Qantas engineering, said it was a record keeping issue and there were no safety implications for the aircraft.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has been investigating the recent Qantas incidents, and said today it would now expand its probe to look into the maintenance records.

"Any problem with record-keeping and documentation in aircraft maintenance is a concern because that's one of the things that underpins the safety of the plane," spokesman Peter Gibson told The Associated Press.

He said his agency would try to determine the extent of the maintenance record problem.

"Is it just a maintenance documentation problem or was there a failure to do any maintenance work?" Gibson said.

Qantas has been in the spotlight recently, most notably after an explosion that tore through the fuselage of a Boeing 747-400 en route from London to Melbourne on July 25, forcing an emergency landing.

Since then, another plane was forced to return to Adelaide because of a problem with landing gear, and a Boeing 767 returned to Sydney soon after takeoff when air traffic controllers saw fluid streaming from a wing.

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