Aviation safety investigations & reports

Airframe event - Airbus A330-203, VH-EBL, 365 km NW of Cairns, 22 March 2011

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 22 March 2011, an Airbus Industrie A330-203 aircraft, registered VH-EBL, was being operated by Qantas Airways, on a scheduled flight from Manila to Sydney, New South Wales. At about 365 NM (676 km) northwest of Cairns, at 39,000 ft, a smell became noticeable on the flight deck and the passenger cabin. The flight crew actioned the aircraft quick reference handbook checklist for Smoke/Fumes/Avionics which removed the odour.

Following electrical arcing of the left windshield heater, a small flame appeared from the bottom left corner of the captain's windshield. The crew donned oxygen masks and extinguished the flame using the cockpit BCF fire extinguisher. There were about four more occasions when arcing and flames appeared and were extinguished. The crew advised air traffic control (ATC) that due to a technical issue they would be diverting to Cairns. The crew also advised ATC that they had extinguished repeated fires as a result of electrical arcing in the captain's windshield heater. ATC declared an INCERFA. The captain advised that emergency services were not required but would advise if the situation changed. The aircraft completed an uneventful landing at Cairns a short time later and the INCERFA was cancelled.

Due to similar reported events, the aircraft operator had in place a windshield replacement program, with a projected completion date for the replacement of identified windshields, by the end of September 2011. This was well within the Airbus Industrie compliance date of May 2012.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 4.28MB]
General details
Date: 22 March 2011   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 16:38 UTC   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 365 km NW of Cairns    
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Windows  
Release date: 12 September 2011   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus Industrie  
Aircraft model A330  
Aircraft registration VH-EBL  
Serial number 976  
Type of operation Air Transport High Capacity  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Sydney, NSW  
Destination Manila, Philippines  
Last update 14 November 2018