October 8, 2008

Australian Plane in Dive Incident Had Earlier Problem

Text of report by News Corp-owned Australian general news daily Courier-Mail website on 8 October

[by Peter Veness, Simon Jenkins and Jo Prichard]

A computer glitch caused a Qantas [Airbus] jet to climb before nose-diving over Western Australia, injuring dozens of passengers [on 7 October], air safety investigators say.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) today said an "irregularity" in one of the plane's computers caused the dramatic altitude change yesterday that hurled passengers around the cabin.

The pilots of the Singapore-Perth flight made an emergency landing in Learmonth, near Exmouth in Western Australia's north. Passengers seriously injured in the incident were airlifted to Perth.

The same plane suffered a mechanical problem at Changi Airport [Singapore] last month. The plane had a "fuel pump reset" before beginning a 17 September flight, a Qantas spokesman told news.com.au

"There was no delay at all in the month of September (involving that plane)," the spokesman said.

Perth man Tim McCabe, who was on board the plane at the time, said a pilot had told passengers that there had been a fault with one of the jet's computers.

Qantas said there had not been a problem with the computer system on that date.

[ATSB director of aviation safety investigations Julian Walsh said in remarks carried by Radio Australia:

"The ATSB investigation will explore all aspects of the operation of the aircraft, including through detailed examination of the flight data and cockpit voice recordings, aircraft systems, maintenance history, air traffic control radar and audio recordings and weather conditions. The ATSB also be conducting a range of interviews with the pilots and cabin crew and will also speak with passengers to examine the cabin safety aspects."

The pilots received electronic warnings in the cockpit "suggesting there was some type of irregularity with the aircraft's elevator control system", the radio reported. Walsh said:

"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 non-normal situation, the aircraft then pitched down quite suddenly and rapidly."

Some 46 passengers were injured, 20 seriously including several serious spinal injuries, the radio said.]

Originally published by Courier-Mail website, Brisbane, in English; Radio Australia, Melbourne in English 0810 8 Oct 08.

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