On the 7th of October 2008 a Qantas plane flying from Singapore to Perth declared a mayday - air traffic control when it made an emergency landing in a small airport on the West Australian coast it had on board more than 100 injured passengers and crew they had broken bones lacerations and spinal injuries while compartment doors has been ripped from hinges and passengers.
Belongings were strewn throughout the cabin less than an hour earlier passengers with and without their seatbelts on had impacted the cabin ceiling when the plane had twice dropped several hundred feet without warning sudden loss of flight the plane being thrown around in the air the screams of those around you for Qantas which boasted an unparalleled.
Flight safety record this was completely out of the ordinary the media was quick to blame the accident on clear air turbulence but what really happened to the plane was something far more disturbing qf 72 was an airbus a330 plane that was just 1 hour and a half from its destination when all hell broke loose the flights captain Kevin Sullivan was a former US Navy fighter pilot at.
The time of the accident he had over 13,000 flying hours in his logbook when I returned the flight deck I knew that we were flying at 37,000 feet the body angle was 2 degrees above the horizon the flight control computers however hot we were flying at 50 degrees body angle and over speeding at the same time now we know that's pretty impossible it says that's where we're.
Flying we're flying like this I must protect the airplane so it pitched the nose down it went from plus 2 to minus eight point four in less than a second but for the Tales book if you're back there you're going to feel the force what captain Sullivan was coming up against was a change in how airplanes have been made in the last 30 years traditional jumbo jets such as the.
Boeing 747 are controlled by the pilot through mechanical connections to the hydraulic systems which move the flight control surfaces that is the rudder the elevator and the LR ins but the Airbus a330 is what's known as a fly-by-wire system where there is no such manual control instead the pilots controls make requests of a computer which sends electronic signals in order to move the.
Flight controls fly-by-wire planes a lighter and more fuel-efficient they're also capable of executing faster and more precise movements than humans and they reduce the chance of pilot error by preventing the plane from exceeding certain limits known as the flight envelope it is the flight computers protection modes that prevent the aircraft's from exceeding the flight.
Envelope and when they became active they blocked captain Sullivan's attempts to stop the computers command it's like 2001 Space Odyssey I'll open the pod bay doors I'm sorry sorry I can't let you do that Kat I'm saying don't push the airplane down I'm pulling back on the stick the computers are saying I'm sorry I'm sorry give I'm not going to let you do that but the fact is.
That fly-by-wire planes have actually made air travel much safer in the past decade the number of commercial passenger flights has surged while the number of fatalities and plane accidents is falling but in the case of flight qf 72 the manufacturers designed prevented the pilot from overriding the computers control in the a330 course you're taught you must interact you can interact with.
The plane it's great and when it works it's great but when it doesn't work here in the year in the dark an investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found that one air data computer was sending incorrect body angle and speed information to the three primary flight control computers which reacted to the data by forcing the plane to pitch down the flight.
Maintenance log revealed that ten simultaneous faults that occurred during the accident and most of these had been hidden from the pilots the hierarchy of this particular airplane is that the computer is number one and the pilot is number two if they for example decide that you're over speeding and stalling and they're going to protect you there's no right to veto that but the captain.
Sullivan is a bigger question left to be answered and it's not just about the computers onboard flight qf 72 as we start to trust computers with delivering our goods and even driving our cars just what level of control should we keep for ourselves I've never even in all the extreme flying edges in the military did I ever say to myself babe you're in trouble.
Those are very profound words for a pilot to admit to himself as I did and saying yeah I'm going to have to I'm in a knife fight with this airplane and only one person's gonna win or one computer is going to win you