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.