Aviation safety investigations & reports

Freight related event involving a Boeing 747-438, VH-OJM, 160km SW Los Angeles, Airport on 11 September 1998

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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During climb, the crew noticed an odour in the cabin which was suspected to have resulted from bleed air system cleaning during earlier maintenance. Further checks carried out by the crew identified a strong smell of petrol, increasing in intensity towards the rear of the cabin. As the aircraft was carrying dangerous goods, detailed as a petrol engine in the forward hold, an immediate return to Los Angeles was initiated. During the return the smoke/fumes removal drill was carried out and fuel was jettisoned. The cabin crew were instructed to switch off any non-essential electrical equipment and the aircraft was descended to 20,000 ft. Oxygen masks were not deployed and the return to Los Angeles was completed without further incident.

A subsequent ground inspection of the forward hold revealed that a motorcycle had fallen onto its side and petrol had leaked from its fuel tank. The petrol spill had been contained within the hold. The motorcycle was offloaded, the petrol spill was cleaned up and the service continued. The operator carried out an investigation into the incident and determined that the motorcycle fuel tank had been drained to the reserve level for shipment. This complied with the dangerous goods regulations for transportation of the motorcycle in an upright position. However, the motorcycle had been inadequately restrained on its transport stand. Only two securing straps had been used instead of five, and no timber had been used between the motorcycle and the pallet floor. This had resulted in the motorcycle falling over, probably during take-off, and the remaining fuel leaking out.

Safety action

The operator, in conjunction with the overseas freight handling agent, instigated an immediate retraining program for all staff involved in export handling procedures. In addition, new instructions have been issued for the handling of dangerous goods.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 14KB]
General details
Date: 11 September 1998   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 6:45 UTC    
State: International    
Release date: 24 December 1998   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final    

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer The Boeing Company  
Aircraft model 747-438  
Aircraft registration VH-OJM  
Sector Jet  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Los Angeles USA  
Destination Sydney NSW  
Last update 03 January 2019