Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Qantas Flight QF72 Emergency Landing at Learmonth, Australia

Qantas logoEarlier today, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) held a media conference regarding an in-flight incident on board a Qantas Airbus A330-300 aircraft that caused injuries to dozens of people. The incident occurred yesterday, October 7, 2008, as Qantas Flight QF72 was en route from Singapore to Perth with 303 passengers and 10 crew on board.

Here is what happened, according to the ATSB media statement about Qantas Flight QF72:
The aircraft, which had 303 passengers and 10 crew on board, was in normal level flight at 37,000 ft about 110 nautical miles north of Carnarvon and 80 nautical miles from Learmonth near Exmouth in north-western Australia, when the pilots received electronic centralised aircraft monitoring messages in the cockpit relating to some irregularity with the aircraft's elevator control system.

The aircraft is reported to have departed level flight and climbed approximately 300 ft, during which time the crew had initiated non-normal checklist/response actions. The aircraft is then reported to have abruptly pitched nose-down.

During this sudden and significant nose-down pitch, a number of passengers, cabin crew and loose objects were thrown about the aircraft cabin, primarily in the rear of the aircraft, resulting in a range of injuries to some cabin crew and passengers.

The crew made a PAN PAN emergency broadcast to air traffic control, advising that they had experienced flight control computer problems and that some people had been injured, and they requested a clearance to divert to and track direct to Learmonth.

A few minutes later the crew declared a MAYDAY and advised ATC of multiple injures including broken bones and lacerations. The aircraft landed at about 1530 local time, about 40 minutes after the start of the event.

The ATSB understand that there were 14 people with serious but not life threatening injuries, which included concussion and broken bones who were taken by air ambulance to Perth. In addition, up to 30 other people attended hospital with possible concussion, minor lacerations and fractures, with up to a further 30 or so people with minor bruises and stiff necks etc who did not need to attend hospital. However, these casualty figures are subject to further clarification and confirmation.

All passengers have been now been transported to Perth. Given the nature of injuries, the occurrence is defined as an accident in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization definition.
The aircraft's Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder have been retrieved by investigators and sent to Canberra for examination. In addition, ATSB is carrying out an on-site investigation at Learmonth, where the aircraft remains.

Qantas also issued a statement today with similar information. The Chief Executive Officer of Qantas, Geoff Dixon, also said, "We commend the professionalism of our crew, who ensured the aircraft landed safely in Learmonth."

UPDATE Oct. 9, 2008: The ATSB has issued an update on the Qantas Flight QF72 accident. Today's ATSB media release says, in part:
The aircraft's Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) arrived in Canberra late on Wednesday evening. Downloading and preliminary analysis overnight has revealed good data from both recorders. Data from the FDR has been provided to Qantas, the French Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses (BEA) and Airbus as parties to the investigation.

While the full interpretation and analysis of the recorded data will take some time, preliminary review of the data indicates that after the aircraft climbed about 200 feet from its cruising level of 37,000 feet, the aircraft then pitched nose-down and descended about 650 feet in about 20 seconds, before returning to the cruising level. This was closely followed by a further nose-down pitch where the aircraft descended about 400 feet in about 16 seconds before returning once again to the cruising level. Detailed review and analysis of FDR data is ongoing to assist in identifying the reasons for the events.
Click here to view the Oct. 9 ATSB media release.

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about Qantas Flt QF 72 on Aircrew Buzz.