By Rishi Iyengar
September 4, 2014

A Perth-bound Qantas flight from Canberra had a close call earlier this year, with the pilot having to make a risky last-minute adjustment to get the aircraft off the ground.

A report released Wednesday by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said that a problem was caused because a group of school children on the Boeing 737 had been checked in as adults and assigned the standard adult weight of 87 kg.

The children — comprising more than half of the flight’s 150 passengers — were all seated in the back of the aircraft, resulting in it becoming nose-heavy. This meant that the captain had to apply a significant amount of back pressure at takeoff, running the risk of the aircraft’s tail hitting the runway. The report states that he was also forced to exceed the calculated takeoff safety speed.

The rest of the flight went off without a hitch, but it was a tense few moments for the pilots. The ATSB later found that the final load sheet overstated the aircraft weight by 3.5 to 5 tons.

Qantas told the ATSB that it has issued a notification to check-in staff, reminding them to ensure that children are registered as children in the airline’s systems.

Write to Rishi Iyengar at rishi.iyengar@timeasia.com.

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