Computer glitch may be behind Qantas incident: ATSB
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has pointed to a possible computer problem as a cause for yesterday's Qantas emergency.
The Qantas Airbus was on route to Perth from Singapore when it descended suddenly, injuring more than 40 passengers.
The ATSB says until it can analyse the flight data recorders it can not determine the exact cause of the problem.
But director of aviation safety investigation Julian Walsh says the flight crew received a message of an irregularity in the elevator control system.
"The aircraft departed normal flight and climbed 300 feet, the aircraft did that of its own accord and then whilst the crew were doing the normal actions in response to that not normal situation the aircraft then pitched down suddenly and quite rapidly," he said.
Mr Walsh says an Airbus representative is currently travelling to Australia.
Qantas says the pilot decided to make the emergency landing yesterday because of the injuries passengers received when the plane plunged unexpectedly.
Forty-six people were injured, 20 seriously, including some with spinal injuries.
Several passengers have reported hearing loud noises before the landing, but Qantas chief pilot Peter Wilson says he will not speculate on what happened.
He said the captain made a decision to land based on his training.
"He was aware that there were injuries on board and as such he made the decision to land at Learmonth, which was the closest airport," he said.
Captain Wilson says the plane is still at Learmonth where engineers are assessing it.
He has assured the public the airline has one of the world's highest safety records.
However Captain Wilson admits it has been a tough few months for Qantas.
"I think that's probably fair to say but again I wish to emphasise you know our safety record and the standard of our pilots and our crews is amongst the highest in the world," he said.
"The training, the money that is spent on them, and the training that they have, they are an extraordinarily professional and competent group of people."http://www.abc.net.a.../08/2385305.htm
===Qantas flight suffered computer 'irregularity'
October 08, 2008
AIR safety investigators say there was an "irregularity" in the computer equipment of a Qantas plane involved in a mid-air incident over Western Australia.
A second team of investigators is travelling to Learmonth, in the state's north, to find the cause of the incident, which injured about 20 passengers and crew on board flight QF72 travelling from Singapore to Perth.
The pilots sent a mayday call shortly before making an emergency landing at the regional airstrip, 40km from Exmouth on WA's Gascoyne coast.
Qantas today said the cause of the “sudden change in altitude” was speculation.
Australian Transport Safety Bureau director of aviation safety investigation Julian Walsh said the plane was travelling at 37,000 feet when the incident happened.
“The pilots received electronic centralised aircraft monitoring messages in the cockpit relating to some irregularity with the aircraft's elevator control system,” he said in Canberra.
The aircraft then climbed about 300 feet before “abruptly” pitching nose down.
Passengers arriving in Perth last night told of their horror as the drop threw them and their personal belongings across the plane.
Jim Ford, of Perth, said he thought he was about to die as he watched people being thrown around the cabin.
“It was horrendous, absolutely gruesome, terrible, the worst experience of my life,” he said.
Ben Cave, of Perth, said for a few seconds he had feared for his life and “saw a bit of a flash before me”.
“We had a major fall and another fall shortly after.
“I hit the ceiling but I was OK, I only got a few bruises and strains. I just remember seeing that the plane was a mess.”
Henry and Doreen Bishop, of Oxford, England, said it was one of the worst experiences of their lives.
“People were screaming but they cut off any panic that might have started...”, Mr Bishop said.
“I put it down to life. The titanic hit an iceberg, we hit an air pocket.”
A spokesman for Perth's Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital said one of the 20 passengers it treated last night was in a serious but stable condition. Eight people were under observation and 11 other patients were discharged, he said. Injuries included fractures, lacerations and suspected spinal injuries.
WA Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan was forced to activate the state crisis centre because of the number of injuries.
“It seems that there might have been some sort of systems failure, we're not sure yet, we're still waiting for further information,” Dr O'Callaghan told ABC Radio.
A further five ATSB investigators were on their way to Learmonth to join their two colleagues already on the ground.
The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder have been quarantined and sent to Canberra for testing.
The Australian and International Pilots' Association today said turbulence was not uncommon on that flight path.
Captain Ian Woods said most modern passenger planes were built to cope with changes in altitude.
“When you cross those jetstreams as you do from Singapore to Perth ... you run across the transition boundary,” Capt Woods, also a Qantas pilot, told ABC Radio.
“It's at that point where you're crossing from smooth air to fast-flowing air, that there can be quite unexpected and significant turbulence.”
This could cause a “jet upset”, Capt Woods said.
“So if you're unfortunate enough to run into that, and it sounds like that's what's happened, then certainly it's unexpected and you can get outcomes like this.”
Capt Woods said turbulence was nothing pilots “can't cope with”.
“Aeroplanes have been ... refined over the years and if we go back to the 50s, then these kinds of events were worse than they are now.”
The incident is another blow to Qantas, which is still dealing with several problems this year, including an exploding oxygen bottle that punched a huge hole in the side of a Qantas Boeing 747-400, forcing an emergency landing in Manila.
A Qantas Boeing 737-800 returned to Adelaide after a landing gear door failed to retract, and a Manila-bound Boeing 767 was turned back to Sydney after developing a hydraulic fluid leak.
- AAP http://www.theaustra...28-2702,00.html
===Qantas passengers tell of terror as Perth-bound plane plunges
By Lee Taylor, with AAP
October 08, 2008 11:28am
Qantas plane in sudden plunge
Passengers "pinned to ceiling", "feared for lives"
Faith in Qantas safety lost
PASSENGERS onboard the turbulent Qantas flight have described haunting images of children and babies hitting the ceiling of the plane.
While the incident left some with spinal injuries and others with broken bones and lacerations, many Qantas passengers have been scarred by the terrifying scenes.
"The poor little kid next to us, we watched him hit the ceiling and sit there for about three seconds, until his dad dragged him back into his seat," passenger Mark Bell told ABC news.
Another passenger, Mike Maxwell, said: "Some people were up for toilets and those sorts of things, and so they were the ones who really suffered worse I suppose and people obviously with young children and so on, babies hit the ceiling and come down again."
The Airbus A330-300 was carrying 303 passengers and 10 crew from Singapore to Perth when it experienced what Qantas has described as a sudden change in altitude.
The injured passengers were flown to Perth on five Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft last night and transferred by ambulance to city hospitals.
The Air Transport Safety Bureau is investigating the incident, while Qantas is conducting separate internal investigations as well, its chief pilot Captain Peter Wilson said.
Meanwhile a pilot from the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) said passengers should be better informed about the dangers of not wearing their seatbelts.
Captain Ian Woods said Qantas pilots and crew encouraged passengers to fasten their seatbelts at all times, but there was no regulation that required them to do so.
“I dare say that not enough passengers fasten their seatbelt when they're in aeroplanes,” he said.
“It shouldn't be interpreted as an option.”
Capt Woods said the industry and government should take steps to better educate people about seatbelt safety, but he said not wearing a seatbelt should not become an offence.
“Yes in some countries like the US, the regulations may be more stringently enforced because of litigation, but in other parts of the world, they will sit on the floor without seatbelts.”http://www.news.com....45-1702,00.html