While it is not uncommon for metal panels to be lost from aircraft in flight, he said: "It's relatively rare that when a bit falls off the airplane it causes the sort of instance that we saw in relation to Qantas.
Not uncommon? Really?
Ok, I know this is bad, but how many of you thought of LOST when you found out an Australian airline had a problem? :)
That's a very interesting place to have a piece come off. There just isn't any stress on that part, except for pressurization and the airstream.
The main spar, which is the most important bit, is quite a bit farther back from that. And the hole doesn't show any signs of an explosion, or anything like that.
Missing a line of rivets leads me to want to look into who did the last "C" check on that aircraft. I would guess most probably, on a 17 year old aircraft, that could be age or corrosion, but I'd bet that it's maintenance related, for sure.