The terrifying flight of QF72

The aircraft involved pictured in 2004.
The aircraft involved pictured in 2004. Photo credit: Chris Finney/Wikimedia Commons

The captain of flight Qantas QF72 has revealed his terror in the cockpit when the state-of-the-art A330 he was piloting from Singapore to Perth made a sudden nosedive.

The passenger jet with 315 passengers on board left Singapore Changi Airport on October 7, 2008 and was flying over the Indian Ocean when all hell broke loose, the New Zealand Herald reports.

One of the plane's autopilot systems disconnected, followed by warning messages lighting up the flight computer, indicating the plane was in stall.

The plane then took a nosedive towards the sea, plunging 200 metres in 20 seconds, according to the Herald. The dive was so intense, pilots with three-point safety harnesses where lifted out of their seats.

The plane then took a second nosedive, plunging 120 metres in 16 seconds.

The captian, Kevin Sullivan, said the plane was irresponsive to his inputs.

"I'm thinking, okay, I'm not in control of this plane," he said in a new episode of Air Crash Investigation on the National Geographic Channel.

The cabin was carnage, filled with passengers with broken bones and lacerations. In total, one crew member and 11 passengers were seriously injured, with 107 suffering minor injuries, the Herald reports.

Damage to flight QF72
Damage to flight QF72 Photo credit: Australian Transport Safety Bureau

The flight crew decided to declare mayday and prepare of an emergency landing at Learmonth Airport in Western Australia.

Captain Sullivan successfully landed the plane, using a military manoeuvre from his time at the Navy.

Experts still aren't sure what caused the event, but came to the conclusion there was a malfunction in one of the plane's three air data units that sent incorrect information to other aircraft systems.