Qantas pilot Richard de Crespigny explains what happened on Auckland to Sydney mayday flight

Experienced pilot who once safely landed a jet after an engine exploded explains what went so wrong on Qantas mayday flight from New Zealand

  • Qantas flight 144 from Auckland to Sydney lost one engine 
  • The pilot issued a mayday call before making emergency landing 
  • All 145 passengers and the crew were uninjured
  • A former Qantas pilot has explained what might have happened 

An experienced Qantas pilot who once guided one of the airline’s jets to safety after an engine exploded has explained in more detail what exactly happened on the mayday flight between Auckland and Sydney.

Aviation safety inspectors and Qantas engineers will examine the engine of a Boeing 737 plane to find out why it failed over the Pacific Ocean causing a mayday alert on Wednesday afternoon. 

The pilot of Qantas Flight 144 from Auckland to Sydney shut down the engine before landing safely at Sydney airport about 3.30pm.

The 145 passengers felt bumps and turbulence but said they were unaware they had lost one engine until after they landed. No one was hurt and the pilot has been praised for landing the plane safely.

Former Qantas pilot Richard de Crespigny (pictured) safely landed a plane in 2010 in which the engine exploded. He shed some light onto what could have happened

Former Qantas pilot Richard de Crespigny (pictured) safely landed a plane in 2010 in which the engine exploded. He shed some light onto what could have happened

QF144 lands in Sydney after suffering engine issues mid-flight, sparking a mayday call

QF144 lands in Sydney after suffering engine issues mid-flight, sparking a mayday call

Former Qantas pilot Richard de Crespigny shed more light on what pilots are trained to do in such a situation.

In 2010, de Crespigny was the pilot on Qantas flight 32 when the Boeing A380 suffered an uncontained engine failure after leaving Changi airport in Singapore.

The minor explosion triggered dozens of malfunction warnings, shut some electronics down, and sent shrapnel into the plane but de Crespigny and his team made a safe emergency landing and no one was injured. 

‘A mayday is given for grave and imminent danger, hospitals will stop operations and lots of ambulances will be sent out, it’s the highest emergency rating,’ he said.

He explained that it’s not usual procedure for pilots to inform passengers about mechanical failures on a flight. 

‘Planes have millions of components and parts regularly fail, that’s why there’s two competent pilots in the cockpit, if it doesn’t affect the passengers we just don’t bother telling them,’ he told the Today show on Thursday.

‘About 20 per cent of people on board will already have a fear of flying.’

He explained that Wednesday’s flight was quite high in altitude when they lost an engine and the procedure is to push the remaining engine to full power – which would have caused the plane to ‘yaw’ to one side as they recalibrated. 

‘The can only stay at that altitude for maybe up to one minute (on one engine) and so they have to do what’s called a drift down descent using the remaining engine.’

Emergency services at the scene at Sydney Airport after a Qantas flight issued a mayday call on Wednesday afternoon

Emergency services at the scene at Sydney Airport after a Qantas flight issued a mayday call on Wednesday afternoon

‘Jet engines only fail once in every 350,000 engine hours and only one in four pilots will see one in their entire career.

‘Planes are under most stress during takeoff and climb, not while cruising, so with that flight maybe it’s a hydraulic metering unit, a carburetor that’s failed or a compressor or turbine blade.

‘Pilots are trained for this and Qantas is one of the safest airlines in the world.’ 

Aviation expert Neil Hansford told the ABC that ‘Qantas has never had a passenger lost on a jet aircraft in its history’.

He said Qantas engineers would be immediately investigating what may have caused the engine failure and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau would be initiating an inquiry into the incident.

Photographs taken at the airport show one of the engines appears to have a large panel missing from the engine cover.

One passenger on board, Nigel Morris from Canberra, said his wife was on the ground and knew what was going on while he was in the air.

Passenger Nigel Morris (pictured) said he didn't hear a bang but there was a significant 'jolt'

Passenger Nigel Morris (pictured) said he didn’t hear a bang but there was a significant ‘jolt’

‘I didn’t hear a bang but there was a major jolt and the plane banked mid-flight so we were aware something was happening,’ Mr Morris said.

‘As it progressed you could tell on the in-flight map that the altitude kept diminishing and we dropped from about 36,000 feet to 20,000 feet over about 40 minutes.’

‘The airspeed also slowed significantly so it was evident something was wrong but none of us were sure what it was.’

Mr Morris said there were no in-flight announcements and the first moment passengers were aware was when the pilot made the announcement to prepare the cabin for landing and added there had been an engine issue.

‘As we taxied toward the airport the pilot said that we’d lost an engine mid-flight and that’s the first we knew specifically what had happened.

‘When the pilot said we could turn our phones on there were lots of messages from my wife Kath asking what was happening.’

Another passenger Sandika McAuley said: ‘I kind of heard the little bang and then a bit of turbulence, and we just thought okay, this is a bit weird.

‘But we didn’t really know anything until we landed, then we got told that there was a mayday call and the engine failed.’

The Qantas plane at Sydney Airport after safely landing as firetrucks park nearby (pictured)

The Qantas plane at Sydney Airport after safely landing as firetrucks park nearby (pictured)

Federal Transport Minister Catherine King lauded the airline’s safety record after a scare that had 100,000 people tracking the flight online.

‘Well done to the highly experienced crew for getting the plane safely home,’ Ms King tweeted.

‘Australia’s aviation industry is among the safest in the world because of the dedicated staff working on planes and behind the scenes.’

The Australian and International Pilots Association (IAPA) said in a statement that such mid-air incidents were extremely rare and it was too early to speculate on the engine failure.

‘We are pleased the expertly trained and professional Qantas pilots took all the right steps to deal with the incident and were able to safely land back in Sydney.’

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