On 26 May 2014, a Virgin Australia Boeing 737 aircraft, registered VH-YIR, was being loaded at Bali International Airport for a flight to Melbourne, Victoria. The flight had been delayed due to a series of disruptions following the cancellation of the previous day’s flight to Melbourne. A breakdown of the baggage belt at Bali airport exacerbated the difficulty in loading and reconciling passenger baggage. A scheduled airport curfew created time pressure for the ground staff who had to manually re-tag bags on the airport apron.
The load controller assessed that a total of 93 bags had been loaded onto the aircraft and the flight documents were produced using that figure. About 30 minutes after the aircraft departed Bali, the ground handler advised network operations and load control that the final baggage numbers were incorrect. The total number of bags loaded onto the aircraft was 189 instead of 93, with an estimated additional weight of about 1,600 kg. The load control team leader elected not to advise the flight crew of the discrepancy.
It was later determined that, based on estimates, the aircraft remained within the weight and balance limitations throughout the flight and the additional weight would have had a negligible effect on the aircraft’s take-off performance.
On 15 June 2014, a Virgin Australia Airbus A330 aircraft, registered VH-XFE, was being loaded for a flight from Perth, Western Australia, to Brisbane, Queensland. The load coordinator printed and distributed the outbound load instructions, on which no outbound items were allocated to the forward hold, but omitted to print the inbound load instructions. The forward hold was not opened or inspected at any time while the aircraft was on the apron at Perth Airport.
The flight departed at about 2245 Western Standard Time and landed in Brisbane without incident. The flight crew were not aware of any loading or weight and balance issues during the flight. During offloading, ground staff at Brisbane Airport found a crate of freight weighing 1,467 kg in the forward hold that had not been manifested and was supposed to have been offloaded in Perth prior to departure.
Accurate weight and balance information is essential for the safety of every flight. These incidents demonstrate the impact distractions such as time pressure and equipment malfunction can have on the accuracy of that information. Following standard procedures and checklists may minimise the potential for error.