Australian Flight Forced to Make Emergency Landing in Guam

An Airbus 330 carrying 203 people made an emergency landing in Guam on Thursday after an electrical problem sparked a small fire in the cockpit, airline officials said. It's the same type of plane that crashed last week in the Atlantic.

There were no injuries Thursday.

The incidents last week and Thursday appear unrelated, and an airline official and an airline official said the electrical problem didn't raise any new safety concerns about the aircraft.

The Jetstar plane was about four hours into its flight from Osaka, Japan, to Australia's Gold Coast when the pilots noticed a small flame and smoke in the cockpit near the window, spokesman Simon Westaway said. A pilot used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire, which did not spread to the cabin, he said.

The plane, which was carrying 190 passengers and 13 crew members, landed without incident at Guam International Airport.

Another Jetstar plane was sent to Guam on Thursday to allow the passengers to finish their journey to Australia.

David Epstein, general manager for government and corporate affairs of Jetstar's parent Qantas Airways, said the electrical connector for the heating element in the cockpit had malfunctioned, causing sparks and smoke, but the situation was quickly brought under control.

The heating element is used to ensure that the cockpit windows don't fog up as the plane flies in cold air at high altitudes, he said.

Epstein said the incident does not raise any new safety concerns about the A330-220.

Last week, an Air France A330-200 went down while flying from Brazil to France, killing all 228 people on board. Investigators are trying to determine the cause of that accident.

"The failure of the electrical connector has no bearing on our flight control system," Epstein said.

He said such incidents are not uncommon, and had happened before on a Qantas Boeing 747 aircraft.

Martin Chalk, president of the European Cockpit Association, said he has never heard of any pilots' complaints about specific aspects of the Airbus A330-200, which is generally considered a very safe airliner.

"What I would suggest is that these incidents are completely unconnected," said Chalk, whose Brussels-based organization represents about 36,000 airline pilots across Europe, of the Jetstar and Air France occurrences. "There is no threat to safety."

"Generally, if you make a bad airplane today, chances are the manufacturer is going to go bust, and will be taken over by a competitor," said Chalk, himself an airline captain flying the Boeing 747. "Airbus and Boeing are very aware of that and they spend a huge amount of effort to avoid such problems in their designs."

Passengers Adam Power and Michelle Foord said the smell of smoke wafted through the cabin, although they did not suspect a fire.

"Four hours into the flight, we smelt like, popcorn," Power told KUAM News television at Guam.

"It didn't smell like fire," Foord added. "Someone mentioned something about a window."

The Jetstar plane in question began flying in 2007, Epstein said.

Qantas was sending engineers to Guam on Thursday to inspect the plane, and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau will lead an investigation into the cause of the fire, he said.