Seven Years Later: Qantas Flight 32

How the A380’s first major incident shaped crew training

A Qantas A380 touches down in Sydney (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Hisham Qadri)

Saturday marks seven years since Qantas flight 32 experienced an in air emergency over Indonesia. The incident was the first major one for the Airbus A380, which at the time, was a two year old aircraft. Although the flight landed safely with no injuries to the 469 passengers and crew on board, the incident had major repercussions across the industry.

The aircraft, the Airbus A380, was the first that had been delivered to Qantas, was on a routine flight from London to Sydney with a scheduled stop in Singapore. Shortly after takeoff from Singapore, the flight experienced an uncontained engine failure of the number two engine.

The failure damaged the wing, flight controls, and landing gear on the aircraft. Initially the crew was left overwhelmed and confused.

The flight had an additional two crew members in the flight deck. This helped the crew members analyze the situation that had befolded them. Captain of the flight Richard Champion de Crespigny choose to have the flight enter a holding pattern to assess the situation. The first officer and one of the extra crew members began to decipher the barrage of messages on the cockpit computer. The remaining crew members assessed the controllability of the double decker aircraft.

After determining the aircraft stable and safe for a return to Singapore, the crew was able to perform a safe emergency landing after approximately two hours after takeoff from the same airport. After the emergency landing, the crew found themselves unable to shut down the number one engine. The crew made the decision to hold the evacuation of the aircraft until the engine could be shut down and situation assessed.

The incident was notable on many levels. The incident was the first for the Airbus A380, and provided an excellent example of crew resource management in an emergency situation. After an investigation, the cause of the engine failure was found to be a manufacturer flaw in the Rolls-Royce engine. This resulted in the grounding of the rest of Qantas’ A380 fleet and a required inspection on other Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines.

The incident led to the replacement of 16 engines on the Qantas fleet. It also prompted other A380 operators to push up inspections and engine replacement on their fleets. The crew resource management displayed on the flight was also considered exemplary and model for other crews in an emergency situation. Captain Champion de Crespigny was appointed a member of the Order of Australia for his service to the industry.

The crew has been heralded for their work in reaction to the emergency and ability to work together as a team. The decisions made, including holding to stabilize the aircraft and waiting to evacuate the aircraft on the ground, were considered to be excellent examples of strong decision making under stressful situations.

This incident has proven to be a model to follow when teaching crew resource management and teamwork in the flight deck.

Daniel Morley

Daniel Morley

Daniel has always had aviation in his life; from moving to the United States when he was two, to family vacations across the U.S., and back to his native England. He currently resides in South Florida and attends Nova Southeastern University, studying Human Factors in Aviation. Daniel has his Commercial Certificate for both land and sea, and hopes to one day join the major airlines.
Daniel Morley