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Years after computer flip-out, Qantas captain fights on

May 15, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A Qantas captain is still locked in a legal battle with Airbus and aerospace company Northrop Grumman almost nine years after a rogue air-data computer aboard an Airbus A330 “went psycho” and sent the plane into two violent uncontrolled nosedives.

Pilot Kevin Sullivan has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and, with other crewmembers, is part of a lawsuit in the US, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald. About 100 passengers hurt in the mishap have settled compensation claims.

For the first time, Sullivan, captain of flight QF72, has revealed the ordeal he went through when a computer went crazy on the flight in October 2008. The plane’s autopilot disconnected and Sullivan, a former US Navy fighter pilot, took manual control of the flight carrying 303 passengers and 12 crew from Singapore to Perth.

At one point the plane dived 150 feet (45 metres) within two seconds over the Indian Ocean.

The story made the cover of Fairfax’s Good Weekend magazine at the weekend. It can be read online on this link:

The gripping saga makes good reading for anyone who may have considered that the most serious threats to airliners consisted of drunken and abusive louts in the cabin.

Coincidentally, the story appeared on the same weekend that computers around the world were swept with a ransomware attack which encrypted data. See: Global ransomware attack taste of things to come?

A flight attendant on QF72, Fuzzy Maiava, has suffered recurrent spasms since the event, along with flashbacks and nightmares. He has had six operations since the flight, according to the report.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) found that one of the A330’s three onboard air-data computers went haywire and sent incorrect data which apparently led another computer to command the plane to nosedive. The A330 sustained 10 simultaneous failures.

Airbus later redesigned the algorithm governing the computer and Northrop Grumman also made modifications, the report said.

Written by Peter Needham

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