The West

Payouts made to flight victims
Payouts made to flight victims

Almost 150 Qantas passengers have received payouts of up to $400,000 each after being injured when a Perth-bound plane plunged twice within seconds three years ago.

The settlement in the US comes as 16 passengers who were the most severely injured on the flight from Singapore prepare to launch a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against aircraft maker Airbus and US aviation technology giant Northrop Grumman, which made the plane's Air Data Inertial Reference Unit.

The Airbus A330, carrying 303 passengers, was 154km west of Exmouth on October 7, 2008 when it nosedived twice as a result of a technological malfunction.

Millions of dollars in damages have recently been awarded to 144 passengers as a result of out of court settlements.

But those with the worst injuries - most of whom are from WA - will await trials in the US after failing to reach agreement with the companies.

US aviation injury lawyer Floyd Wisner, who is representing 160 passengers and crew from the flight, said injuries ranged from psychological trauma to physical injuries such as fractured vertebrae, broken bones and serious lacerations.

The most severely injured passenger, a New Zealander, suffered a brain injury after he was thrown around the aircraft.

Mr Wisner said although he could not disclose specifics, he expected the 16 passengers who were suing were in line for payouts of several million dollars each.

But they would have to wait more than a year for the legal action to be completed.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which last week released its final report into the A330 incident, found that a constant stream of incorrect data messages caused the terrifying plunges.

The bureau found that while the plane was cruising at 37,000ft, one of its three air data units started sending intermittent, incorrect information on airspeed, altitude, air pressure, temperature and the flying angle to the computers controlling the flight.

Within two minutes, the auto- pilot disconnected and five seconds later pilots started receiving spurious cockpit alarms and alerts.

The A330 plunged 150ft in two seconds as part of a 690ft, 23-second dive. The 60 passengers not wearing seatbelts and standing crew hit the ceiling.

Two minutes later, the A330 plunged again, diving 400ft in 15 seconds.

Airbus has redesigned the algorithm to prevent the same type of accident from occurring again.

But Mr Wisner said he did not believe the issue had been completely rectified.

"I think this sort of aircraft can sometimes be too automotive and I'm not sure this has been properly examined - certainly it's plausible that this could happen again," he said.

  • A passenger's ordeal *


The West Australian

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