Qantas crew reach agreement with Airbus on autopilot incident
Airbus and Northrop Grumman reached an agreement with the pilot and crew members of Qantas flight 72 on July 26, 2018.
QF72 was operated by an Airbus A330-300 of the Australian airline Qantas between Singapore International Airport (SIN) and Perth Airport (PER), Australia on October 7, 2008.
About an hour before reaching its destination, the plane was sent into an unexpected maneuver, diving at 8.4 degrees and descending by 200 meters (650 feet) in about 20 seconds before pilots could correct the trajectory. About three minutes later, the plane dove a second time at 3.5 degree and descended 120 meters (400 feet) in 16 seconds. After pilots issued a mayday, the plane was diverted for an emergency landing in Learmonth airport (LEA).
Of the 303 passengers, at least 110 sustained injuries. As for 12 crew members, nine were reported injured. 12 people in total - mostly those sitting without their seatbelts fastened - were severely injured, sustaining fractures and lacerations.
After initially suspecting turbulence, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau determined that maneuvers were caused by the autopilot. One of the three air data inertial reference units (ADIRU) was sending erroneous data spikes on the plane position that led to a false trajectory correction by the autopilot.
Following the incident, several passengers received reparation from both the plane maker Airbus and Northrop Grumman, manufacturer of the faulty ADIRU.
The captain of the flight, Kevin Sullivan, second officer Ross Hales and several flight attendants were the last to come to an agreement on July 26, 2018, days before the court hearing. The terms of the agreement are undisclosed. Sullivan, a former fighter pilot who left Qantas in 2016, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following the incident, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Hales is still flying for the airline.
On December 8, 2018, Qantas flight 71 from Perth (PER) to Singapore (SIN), operated by another Qantas A330-300, was involved in a similar incident. The crew followed the procedure issued by Airbus following QF72 incident and landed safely back at Perth airport (PER).
Following the two incidents, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) released a directive on January 15, 2009, describing the procedure for the crew to follow to ensure the faulted inertial reference do not interfere with other systems.
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