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MANILA, Philippines (July 27) – Australian investigators are focusing on the possibility that an oxygen cylinder could have exploded mid-flight on a Qantas jumbo jet that made an emergency landing in the Philippines with a giant hole in its fuselage, officials said Sunday.
Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority said Qantas has been ordered to urgently inspect every oxygen bottle aboard its fleet of 30 Boeing 747s.
“At this stage, there is no evidence whatsoever that this is a security-related event,” Neville Blyth, senior investigator from the Australian Transport and Safety Bureau, told a news conference in Manila. “This is being treated as a safety investigation.”
Blyth said tests for bomb residue were negative. Philippine bomb-sniffing dogs went through the aircraft, particularly the cargo hold and the passenger baggage, and found no indication of explosives.
He said the focus is now on an oxygen bottle missing from the cargo hold that was left exposed when a section of the 747-400’s metal skin ripped away at 29,000 feet over the South China Sea on Friday.
“I can’t speculate as to indeed the probability of that cylinder having caused the damage,” Blyth said, when asked if there were indications that the scuba tank-like cylinder had exploded and damaged the plane.
“In the vicinity of the damage, we are missing one cylinder. The areas around the damage will be inspected. We’re obviously looking for evidence on where that cylinder may have gone,” he said.
Peter Gibson, spokesman for the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, said an inspection of all oxygen bottles in Qantas’ fleet will take several days. He said bottles located near the hole contained emergency oxygen for the flight deck. aol.com