Passengers on board a Qantas plane from Los Angeles to Melbourne feared they were going to die after their flight began to “nosedive”.
The A380 began a short sudden drop, which was described by a passenger as a 10-second nose dive, after being caught up in the “wake turbulence” of another aircraft on Sunday night.
Janelle Wilson told The Australian, “It was between 1½ and two hours after we left LA and all of a sudden the plane went through a violent turbulence and then completely up-ended and we were nosediving.”
Ms Wilson described the event as terrifying and said she held hands with the passenger beside her, claiming she “thought with absolute certainty that we were going to crash.”
The wake turbulence was caused by another A380 travelling ahead of the QF94 flight.
Qantas Fleet Safety Captain Debbie Slade said sudden turbulence can be a jolt for passengers but aircraft are designed to handle it safely.
“As the captain explained to passengers at the time, this A380 experienced a short burst of wake turbulence from another A380 flying ahead and above it,” she said
Qantas explains in an online blog that large jet aircraft disturb the air they fly though, which is why distance is deliberately left between large aircraft. This type of turbulence is said to be uncommon.
Captain Slade said it is hard to eliminate wake turbulence, but there are a lot of safeguards in place to reduce likelihood of these encounters.
“Unexpected turbulence is why we always recommend passengers keep their seat belt firmly fastened at all times just as pilots do in the flight deck,” she said.
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The planes took off from Los Angeles two minutes apart, both headed for Australia.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau wrote on Facebook on Thursday: “Based on the facts of this occurrence, there was no requirement for the operator to notify the ATSB immediately.
“The operator submitted a notification this morning, which is within the required 72 hour time frame for routinely reportable matters.
“The information contained in the notification has been reviewed and the ATSB has determined that it will not be investigating.”
It is suggested that there has been no breach of separation standards because the two planes were understood to be 20 nautical miles apart and 1000 feet in altitude, The Australian reports.
Nobody on board was injured, according to reports.