The normally routine Qantas flight QF460 from Melbourne to Sydney turned into a nightmare for passengers on Friday when extreme turbulence hurled luggage, laptops, mobile phones and a guide dog around the cabin and landed two people in hospital.
Another Qantas flight from Perth ran into something very similar shortly afterwards.
The pilots of QF460 declared a fuel emergency and diverted to the Williamstown RAAF base where the plane landed safely.
The B767 was in a holding pattern because of weather-related congestion at Sydney Airport. The plane tried to land, aborted and made a go-around – attempting to land on an alternate runway.
That was when violent turbulence slammed into the aircraft, with passengers screaming and two people suffering head injuries after being struck by airborne objects.
“Worst turbulence in my life out of the 94 flights I’ve done in past 2yrs,” tweeted Tuhonia Tihirahi. “Honestly thought I was gonna die.”
“Scariest moment in my life”, concurred another passenger, Nehme Khattar.
Author Jane Caro tweeted: “You know it’s been a really freaky flight when the crew congratulate the pilot & 1st officer for getting us safely on the ground….”
Another comment, from Olivia Riordan: “Frightening ‘extreme turbulence’ @qantasairways QFA460. People, guide dog, Qantas iPads & luggage airborne. Landed in Newcastle. Home by 4am.”
The injured passengers were taken to the local Newcastle hospital for treatment before being discharged, with the other passengers transported by bus back to Sydney.
Qantas later issued an apology.
“The Qantas crew handled this difficult situation with skill and professionalism to ensure a safe landing in Williamstown,” the airline stated. “We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused to our customers.”
The incident has been reported to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) which has yet to determine whether to investigate.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that after passengers were bussed to Sydney Airport, there were not enough taxis to take them into the city. Passengers were just “dumped outside arrivals – no staff, no taxis, no nothing”, one claimed.
The turbulence didn’t end with flight QF460. The Aviation Herald, a highly respected site run by Simon Hradecky, reported that a second Qantas aircraft ran into almost exactly the same problem five minutes later and also diverted.
A second Qantas aircraft, an Airbus A330-200 registration VH-EBP arriving from Perth,WA (Australia) as flight QF-582 went around from low height (below 1000 feet MSL) on final approach to runway 34L about 5 minutes after QF-460 and also diverted to Newcastle. The crew of QF-582 reported to tower that they had experienced “a big bang” from the wind changing from north to east then west.
A passenger onboard of QF-460 reported they were on approach to Sydney when the aircraft encounter “major turbulence”, they attempted to land twice but diverted to Newcastle, the flight scheduled to be airborne for about 80 minutes turned to about 4 hours duration. They were bussed back to Sydney.
A passenger onboard QF-582 reported mobile phones, laptops and hand luggage became airborne in the cabin while on final approach, ailerons and spoilers fully deflecting just as the crew abandoned the approach and went around. A lot of air sick bags became filled during final approach.
Written by Peter Needham