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Posted: 10/10/2008 11:22:32 AM EDT
Sounds like just what need for our new tanker.

Qantas plane's sudden drop injures, terrifies passengers

Associated Press

SYDNEY, Australia -- Passengers told of terror in the sky when their Qantas Airways plane suddenly plunged nose-first over Australia, tossing travelers around the cabin and causing fractures, concussions and bruises.

Air safety investigators said Wednesday that instruments aboard the Airbus A330-300 warned pilots of a glitch in the stabilization system just before the sudden altitude changes on Tuesday's flight from Singapore to the western Australian city of Perth.

More than 40 people were taken to hospitals for treatment, with 14 seriously injured.

"It was horrendous, absolutely gruesome, terrible, the worst experience of my life," said passenger Jim Ford of Perth.

He said he thought he was about to die as he watched unbelted passengers being flung around the cabin.

The plane, carrying 303 passengers and 10 crew, was at 37,000 feet and nearing its destination when the drop occurred. The plane made an emergency landing in Learmonth, Western Australia, about 680 miles northeast of Perth.

Seven Air Transport Safety Bureau investigators were in Learmonth to study the incident and have quarantined the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder. They will also interview the crew and passengers.

Qantas, which has been beset by a string of safety problems in recent months, said it was cooperating with the bureau and also conducting its own investigation.

Julian Walsh, director of the ATSB's aviation safety investigation, said the pilots received electronic messages "relating to some irregularity with the aircraft's elevator control system," which helps keep the plane level in flight.

The aircraft then climbed approximately 300 feet before it "abruptly pitched nose down," Walsh said. It was unclear how far the aircraft dropped during the incident.

Walsh said environmental factors, such as turbulence, could also have been at play and that it was "too soon to draw any conclusions as to the specific cause of this accident."

Passengers who were not wearing seatbelts flew into the air, some hitting the ceiling of the plane. Loose items scattered throughout the cabin and some overhead luggage compartments flew open.

"It was like a hurricane inside ... like a war zone," Keith Burns of Lancashire, England, told 2UE radio. "All of a sudden it dropped like a brick, a lead balloon and then it leveled off again and a couple seconds later it fell again.

"There were screams and all the interior was breaking all over the place," he said. "It's an experience I wouldn't like to do again."

Qantas and the ATSB said 14 people had serious, but not life-threatening injuries such as concussions and broken bones. Thirty other passengers were treated in hospitals.
Link Posted: 10/10/2008 11:30:06 AM EDT
Link Posted: 10/10/2008 11:34:39 AM EDT
This is why you wear your seat belt even when the seat belt sign is off. So many morons think they know better.
Link Posted: 10/10/2008 11:39:06 AM EDT
Link Posted: 10/10/2008 11:53:27 AM EDT
Incidents like this don't happen often but they do happen.  MD-11 over the Pacific went crazy years ago and if I recall correctly a passenger(s) was severely hurt or killed, a 727 went into a dive and actually went supersonic briefly before the crew caught up with it. The only sure preventative is to stay home.
Link Posted: 10/15/2008 8:17:58 PM EDT
Airbus Gives Alert as Autopilot Caused Plane's Plunge (Update5)

By Ed Johnson

Oct. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Airbus SAS issued an alert to airlines worldwide after Australian investigators said a computer fault on a Qantas Airways Ltd. flight switched off the autopilot and generated false data, causing the jet to nosedive.

The Airbus A330-300 was cruising at 37,000 feet (11,277 meters) when the computer fed incorrect information to the flight control system, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said yesterday. The aircraft dropped 650 feet within seconds, slamming passengers and crew into the cabin ceiling, before the pilots regained control.

``This appears to be a unique event,'' the bureau said, adding that Toulouse, France-based Airbus, the world's largest maker of commercial aircraft, issued a telex late yesterday to airlines that fly A330s and A340s fitted with the same air-data computer. The advisory is ``aimed at minimizing the risk in the unlikely event of a similar occurrence.''

More than 40 passengers and crew needed hospital treatment for spinal injuries, cuts, broken bones and concussions after flight QF72 from Singapore to Perth plunged on Oct. 7. The pilots issued a mayday call and made an emergency landing at a remote airfield in Western Australia.

Litton Industries' System

The flight control system was supplied by Litton Industries, a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman Corp., according to the telex issued to airlines. Carriers can choose data computers made by Litton or Honeywell International Inc. for the model. The fault hasn't occurred with Honeywell equipment.

The air data system involved, the LTN-101, was certified for operation in 1993 and the 6,900 units sold since then have logged millions of flight hours, Northrop spokeswoman Katie Lamb said in an e-mail. The company isn't aware of any incidents similar to the one encountered by the Qantas aircraft.

Northrop, the world's largest warship builder, acquired Litton in 2001 for about $5.18 billion. Northrop is ``cooperating fully'' with all parties in the investigation, Lamb said.

European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co., Airbus's owner, fell 93 cents, or 8.4 percent to 10.17 euros in Paris trading. Northrop fell $2.91, or 6.4 percent, to $42.30 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., which operates 28 A330s or A340s fitted with systems covered by Airbus's alert, is taking the recommended steps, it said in an e-mailed reply to Bloomberg News queries. Actions include changes to checks by flight crews and maintenance procedures, the Hong Kong-based carrier added.

Autopilot Off

A ``preliminary analysis'' of the Qantas plunge showed the error occurred in one of the jet's three air data inertial reference units, which caused the autopilot to disconnect, the ATSB said in a statement on its Web site.

The crew flew the aircraft manually to the end of the flight, except for a period of a few seconds, the bureau said.

Even with the autopilot off, flight control computers still ``command control surfaces to protect the aircraft from unsafe conditions such as a stall,'' the investigators said.

The unit continued to send false stall and speed warnings to the aircraft's primary computer and about 2 minutes after the initial fault ``generated very high, random and incorrect values for the aircraft's angle of attack.''

The flight control computer then commanded a ``nose-down aircraft movement, which resulted in the aircraft pitching down to a maximum of about 8.5 degrees,'' it said.

No `Similar Event'

``Airbus has advised that it is not aware of any similar event over the many years of operation of the Airbus,'' the bureau added, saying it will continue investigating.

The incident was the latest scare for Australia's largest airline, whose safety record was made famous in the movie ``Rain Man,'' in which Dustin Hoffman's character insists on flying Qantas because it hasn't had a fatal jet accident.

On July 25, a Qantas aircraft made an emergency landing in Manila after an oxygen tank exploded, puncturing the plane's fuselage at 29,000 feet. A Qantas flight on Aug. 2 was forced to return to Sydney, where the airline is based, soon after takeoff because of a fluid leak in a wing.

AirAsia X, the Malaysian budget airline that has 25 Airbus A330-300s on order, said it isn't concerned because the planes will have the Honeywell technology.

``It doesn't affect us,'' Chief Executive Officer Azran Osman Rani said in a phone interview today from Hyderabad, India. The airline will take delivery this month of the first of the A330s on order.
Link Posted: 10/15/2008 8:30:28 PM EDT
Life immitating art.  Airframe.  Michael Crichton
Link Posted: 10/15/2008 8:36:21 PM EDT
Imagine the sound of an Airbus full of mimes doing a wingover...
Link Posted: 10/15/2008 9:23:44 PM EDT

Imagine the sound of an Airbus full of mimes doing a wingover...

Link Posted: 10/16/2008 1:30:38 AM EDT
Wanna know what happens when a Boeing kicks off the autopilot?

Link Posted: 10/16/2008 2:51:11 AM EDT
In before cmjohnson.
Link Posted: 10/16/2008 3:52:33 AM EDT
I cant believe any pilot would willingly fly a plane where the computer decides if you're making the right choices or not...

Link Posted: 10/16/2008 4:19:41 AM EDT
Why I don't like to ride on the scarebus when we travel........................Stabalization is just over rated anyway.
Link Posted: 10/16/2008 5:51:34 AM EDT
I'm hoping that data recorder shows it was the flight attendants ass hitting the cotrols as captain McRod was slipping her the bone....
Link Posted: 10/16/2008 8:32:34 AM EDT
I imagine it would be alot more scary if it happened at low altitude in a pattern or aproach/takeoff.
Link Posted: 10/16/2008 8:41:25 AM EDT
I wonder if that would be problematic while refueling a B-2 Bomber?
Link Posted: 10/16/2008 8:45:19 AM EDT
At least the software didn't execute the "release rudder" command.
Link Posted: 10/16/2008 8:49:40 AM EDT

In before cmjohnson.

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