Boeing 717 Pilot Sues QantasLink For Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

A QantasLink pilot is taking her former employer to court after two mid-flight incidents allegedly caused the pilot post-traumatic stress disorder. The pilot is seeking a total of US$607,210 in damages and costs in a Queensland court.

A former pilot is suing QantasLink after experiencing two engine issues on flights. Photo: Qantas

According to her LinkedIn profile, Brisbane-based Jacinda Cottee, 43, worked as a QantasLink pilot between October 2011 and March 2021. She was a First Officer operating one of its Boeing 717-200s. QantasLink is a regional brand of Qantas. Before that, Ms Cottee worked as a Captain at Darwin-based Airnorth and now-defunct Townsville-based MacAir.

Last Wednesday, Jacinda Cottee filed a statement of claim against various QantasLink companies at the Brisbane District Court registry. In that claim, Ms Cottee says she now suffers from PTSD because QantasLink didn’t maintain their planes properly. Those planes were subsequently involved in engine-related incidents when Ms Cottee was in the cockpit.

“QantasLink breached their duty of care by failing to perform proper maintenance on the Boeing 717 aircraft,” Ms Cottee’s solicitor told The Australian. Solicitors Slater and Gordon declined to provide further comment to Simple Flying.

Jacinda Cottee flew QantasLink 717s for almost 10 years. Photo: Tony Hisgett via Wikimedia Commons

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Jacinda Cottee’s complaint concerns an engine failure on a Boeing 717-200 flight she was operating between Alice Springs and Brisbane in March 2018. That flight was an hour west of Brisbane when the aircraft experienced a loud bang and began vibrating. On landing, inspections revealed damage to the compressor blades of one engine.

Three years earlier, there had been a problem with an engine on a flight between Hobart and Melbourne.

Following the incident near Brisbane, Jacinda Cottee’s employment as a 717 pilot ended on medical grounds.

“By overlooking safety, they put their pilot, crew, and passengers at risk. Ms Cottee has been left with a psychological injury, leaving her unable to fly and pursue her dream career,” Ms Cottee’s solicitor said.

A QantasLink Boeing 717-200. Photo: Bidgee via Wikimedia Commons

Working out who is responsible may be a big task

The amount claimed covers lost past and future earnings. But digging into this case and the complex corporate structures behind QantasLink’s operations suggests determining who is responsible for what is easier said than done.

QantasLink is a brand. That brand features on aircraft owned by other businesses, including Eastern Australia Airlines and Sunstate Airlines. These are former regional airlines that, over the years, have been swallowed up and subsumed by Qantas.

QantasLink doesn’t directly operate the 20 Boeing 717-200s that fly in its colors. Adelaide-based National Jet Systems (NJS) does. NJS was a part of Cobham Aviation, another Adelaide-based airline that does a good business operating charter, passenger, and specialist aviation services for a number of customers. Last year, Qantas bought National Jet Systems.

Indirectly, Qantas now controls and operates the QantasLink fleet, including the Boeing 717-200s. But from a legal and corporate point of view, it’s very arm’s length. An added complication is that Ms Cottee’s direct employer was not Qantas or QantasLink. It was Cobham Aviation.

“It may well be that no member of the Qantas Group is the ­entity responsible for the maintenance or service of the engine,” Qantas’ legal representative told The Australian.

Slater and Gordon described Ms Cottee’s case to Simple Flying as very interesting. Qantas is justifiably proud of its safety and maintenance record. Jacinda Cottee’s career as a QantasLink pilot is over. What the Judge makes of it and what that career is worth will be worth watching.