A Qantas A330-200 flying from Sydney to Perth diverted to Adelaide on Thursday following a depressurization incident. The flight was heading out over the Great Australia Bight when the incident occurred, necessitating an emergency descent and a diversion to Adelaide.
Simon Hradecky first reported the incident in The Aviation Herald. According to that report, VH-EBK was operating QF583 from Sydney to Perth. That flight is the 19:40 evening departure from Sydney. On Thursday evening, QF583 was running significantly behind schedule. The aircraft did not depart until 22:36 local time. According to flight-tracking data, the aircraft was approximately two hours and 20 minutes into the flight and cruising at 12,150 meters when the depressurization event occured.
Depressurization occurred nearly two and a half hours into the flight
VH-EBK, better known to most Qantas regulars as Savannah Way, entered service with Qantas in 2008. This is the first reported incident involving the plane. The A330 is a regular on Qantas’ transcontinental flights between Australia’s east coast cities and Perth. Qantas presently has 11 of their 28 Airbus A330s in the air. In addition to operating flights to Perth, the A330s are kept busy running freight flights into Asia.
Flight tracking websites indicate VH-EBK was approximately 700 kilometers southwest of Adelaide, having crossed the coastline and headed into the Bight just north of Mount Gambier. A Qantas spokesperson told Simple Flying the pilots received a cabin pressure warning indication and following standard procedure, descended to a lower altitude. In the space of two or three minutes, the aircraft descended approximately 4,500 meters. Then the rate of descent decreased. VH-EBK descended a further 4,500 meters to around 3000 meters over a 15-minute timeframe.
After the first rapid descent, the aircraft did a sharp turn and began tracking northeast. At the end of the second, longer descent, when VH-EBK was roughly 350 kilometers west of Kangaroo Island’s southwest tip, the plane turned onto a northerly heading. Cruising at just over 3,000 meters and at speeds varying between 600 and 650 kilometers per hour, VH-EBK tracked north for 15 minutes until it was due west of Adelaide. Nearly three hours into the flight and about 400 kilometers west of Adelaide, the plane turned east for a direct approach into the airport over both the Spencer and St Vincent’s Gulf.
A safe landing in Adelaide
Roughly 70 minutes after the depressurization incident occurred, VH-EBK landed safely in Adelaide just after 02:00 local time. It was a slow taxi to the gate. The Aviation Herald reported the pilots exited the runway and waited for an inspection by emergency services. It took 30 minutes for the plane to get given the all-clear and proceed to the gate to offload the passengers.
This is the first depressurization incident involving a Qantas aircraft in a couple of years. As far as Simple Flying can ascertain, the last incident occurred in March 2019. Then, a Boeing 737-800 operating a routine Tuesday morning passenger flight between Canberra and Melbourne was also forced to descend to 3,000 meters after a cabin depressurization.
The previous year, in 2018, there was also a depressurization incident onboard a Boeing 737-300 freighter Qantas operated in conjunction with Australia Post. That flight was operating from Brisbane to Melbourne. The depressurization required the aircraft to divert to Canberra.
At the time of publication, VH-EBK remains on the ground at Adelaide Airport. Qantas advises the plane will be inspected by its engineers before returning to service. Qantas told Simple Flying safety remains their number one priority. Passengers continued to Perth on Friday on another aircraft.