Dozens of Qantas passengers and crew are launching a multi-million dollar case against Airbus and a component-maker over a terrifying mid-air plunge which left scores injured, a lawyer said yesterday.
Attorney Floyd Wisner said he was representing 76 passengers and crew who were on the 2008 flight that dived steeply twice, tossing people around the cabin and forcing an emergency landing at a remote Australian air force base.
Wisner refused to put a figure on the compensation sought from Europe’s Airbus and US firm Northrop Grumman, which made a data unit on the plane, but said it would be in the millions of dollars.
Among the mostly Australian group he is representing, which also includes passengers from Britain, Sri Lanka, India and Singapore, are the three Qantas pilots who were on the flight, he said.
The Airbus A330-300 was flying at 11,280m as it made its way from Singapore to Perth on Oct. 7, 2008 when the autopilot disengaged and the plane suddenly nose-dived, plunging 200m.
After the pilots brought it back to altitude, the plane went into another plunge and dropped another 122m, again throwing passengers and loose items around the plane and injuring more than 100 people.
“Some had broken limbs, spinal injuries, severe lacerations to their scalps,” Wisner said. “Others had a combination of lesser physical injuries and psychological injuries. Some have more psychological injuries.”
“People flew up to the ceiling, hit their head on the [luggage] bins, and then remained up on the ceiling for what to them seemed like an unusual amount of time only to come crashing down on top of other people,” he said.
Many of the passengers were so traumatized by the experience they are no longer able to fly, he said.
He said he believed the captain of the flight, a former “top gun pilot from the US Navy,” had not flown since.
“He has told me that when the plane went out of control, the computer would not give him back control of the plane and he said it was in a dive,” Wisner told ABC Radio. “All he could see was the ocean. He has never been as frightened as he was at that point despite all his prior military aircraft training.”
Wisner, whose practice is devoted to aviation cases, said he had been contacted by Australian lawyers to work on the compensation claims before the statute of limitations expired on Oct. 7 this year.
He said if the claims were not settled, he expected the case to go to trial in the US within two years.
Qantas, which prides itself on its safety record, said the incident was an “exceptionally rare event,” and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has yet to release its final report into the cause of the plunges. It said it had already settled a number of claims over the incident.