A Jetstar Airbus A320-200, registration VH-VFN performing flight JQ-820 from Sydney,NS to Brisbane,QL (Australia) with 173 passengers and 6 crew, completed what appeared to be an uneventful flight with a safe landing in Brisbane.
Only then it was discovered that a wrong container had been loaded weighing 900kg instead of 240kg, rendering the load sheet inaccurate. The flight crew however did not notice any handling difficulty during the flight.
The ATSB released their final report releasing following findings:
An incorrect container was delivered to the ramp by the cargo terminal operator, probably because the cargo terminal operator crew misread the similar container numbers.
- The short turnaround time combined with this being the last flight to Brisbane that night, along with the assumption there was a transcription error, resulted in the leading hand not requesting a new deadload weight statement and container card, and loading the incorrect container on the aircraft.
- Due to the leading hand's assurance, the captain accepted the hand-written amendment to the deadload weight statement.
- Although the actual take-off weight was about 660 kg more than the calculated take-off weight, as the container was loaded close to the aircraft’s centre of gravity, there was no effect on the aircraft performance or handling.
The ATSB reported that the load sheet listed three containers to be loaded, amongst them a container with the number 4183 with 240kg.
Three containers had been delivered to the aircraft, two containers matched, the third container had the number 1483 weighing 900kg and carried a container card with the number 4183. The load agent/leading hand assumed the digits had just been transposed and loaded the container manually amending the load sheet to container number 1483. Upon assurance by the load agent the captain accepted the manually amended load sheet and signed it.
The ATSB analysed:
The actual container loaded onto the aircraft weighed 660 kg more than the 240 kg entered into the loading program, and was loaded close to the aircraft’s centre of gravity. The trim setting used for the take-off was the same as would have been used if the actual container weight and position had been entered and the derived V speeds were within 1 kt and the flex temperature within 1 °C of those generated based on the actual aircraft take-off weight. There was no effect on the aircraft performance or handling and no issues or abnormal indications were identified by the flight crew.
Based on the weights listed on the DWS, the leading hand commented that they could have loaded any of the three containers into the forward compartment of the aircraft, but elected to load container 4297 with a gross weight of 300 kg for position 11 (Figure 3) and fortuitously elected to load 1483 close to the centre of gravity.
The aircraft operator advised that a member of the freight company misread the digits on the container (confusing 1483 for 4183) and transported it to the incorrect bay while delivering the correct DWS and container card.
The leading hand (incorrectly) assumed the freight container (1483) was the correct container to be loaded, but that the container number on the container card and DWS (4183) had been entered incorrectly (due to a transcription error). Although the leading hand could have requested a new printed DWS and container card, due to the combination of the limited turnaround time available and the concern to ensure the freight made it to the destination that night, the leading hand instead ‘corrected’ the numbers with a pen so they matched the number on the container. This resulted in a lost opportunity for the leading hand’s incorrect assumption to be identified. Similarly, although the captain could see there was a discrepancy, they accepted the hand-written amendment to the DWS based on the leading hand’s assurance that the correct container been loaded onto the aircraft.