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Having read the QF32 book years ago, but only having discovered the blog today, I was wondering if you could still help answer a question regarding that flight. Was there any reversion to Alternate or Direct Law in the incident flight? Or did the aircraft manage to stay in Normal Law despite the damage to the 21 systems?
The Flight Control Computers degraded to Alternate Law due to damage to the Air Data Computers.
See QF32 p 207
In QF32 you mentioned blade tip velocity exceeding the speed of sound. With Steam Turbines we avoid this to prevent vibration and destruction. How is this prevented in the aero engine?
Vibrations are a significant problem in turbine engines. For info:
Regarding the Trent 900 high pressure compressor:
The Trent 900s fan blade:
Hi Rich! Just finished reading QF32 in three days including one VERY late night! You really gripped me mate! Thank you for writing it. I have seen the Air Crash Investigation episode on your flight – I think they should change the name to Air Incident Investigation but I guess that wouldn’t grab the attention of the non aviation buffs so much. Anyway, I’m very glad that you were able to go into far greater detail than they were, I really enjoyed it. I LOVED how Klaus, erm, Michael corrected your PA and got the passengers laughing. I know a young man who aspires to be a pilot in the RAAF so I shall be loaning him QF32 at least. I’m about to dive into FLY! but I want to finish ‘reading’ Leadership and Self Deception on Audible first. To quote Scott Manley, I’m Dave Alderson, fly safe.
Thanks Dave for you kind words. Best wishes, and please give me your feedback about FLY!. Rich
Will do. My mind has still been turning on QF32 and I feel there are some missing pieces. In the first set of pictures it shows you and your family with Neil Armstrong – totally cool you got to meet him! – and you, your Dad and your son in the cockpit of a Gulfstream at Avalon and a couple of photos of Alex, one in the back seat of a Hornet, having ’empty tanks’ after a flight to heaven and back and in the 787 simulator in the States. Did i miss these events in the book? And does ’empty tanks’ mean he lost control of his bladder or he was just knackered?
Richard, I have two questions for you if you don’t mind.
Q1. One could understand even a seasoned professional such as yourself worrying about something going wrong again while you’re at the controls. After the QF32 incident and you were cleared for flying duties once again, did you experience any apprehension, fear or self-doubt or any post-traumatic stress kind of feelings as you readied yourself in the cockpit or during the initial climb out from the runway for the first time since that incident?
Q2. Lastly, I was wondering if you went through a similar process as Captain Sullenberger did following his New York forced water landing incident?
Q3. I realise the Tom Hanks movie about “Sully’s” incident included a generous helping of “Hollywood” thrown in, but were there investigations and questions asked of you and what you and your flight crew did by organisations like CASA and others? Was anything important learned from this incident that has improved how such an incident might be handled in future by the crew and the aircraft? How long was it, by the way, before you were back in the Captain’s seat following this incident?
Thanks for a very informative book. I’ve read it a few times now since its release. Safe travels, Captain!
A1. I wrote about the post traumatic stress (PTS) I suffered after QF32. PTS is a necessary and good reaction to a challenging situation that forces us to redefine and reassess risks to enhance our survival. If PTS is a natural response, then we need to expect if and understand how to recover after a traumatic event. I wrote about this in my book, taking four months off after the event before returning to commercial flying duties. Some of the other QF32 crew members who attempted to return to work earlier, discovered that they needed additional time away before returning to work.
Oddly, and I firmly believe by coincidence, a CASA inspector was present in the cockpit for my first two sectors when I resumed flying. I could have easily felt there were special reasons why CASA wanted to examine my skills on my first two sectors after returning to work – however I am confident it was just luck. So my first two sectors after my aborted route check with two check captains (QF32), was with a CASA examiner! I remember these two sectors were successes, though a few more things failed to challenge us.
A2. I wrote about the similarities between Sully and me at this review of Sully
A3. I had many discussions about my QF32 flight with the CEO, directors and investigators at the Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB). They went to extraordinary efforts to discover, analyse and report on every aspect of the incident. No CASA persons interviewed me regarding QF32.
Thanks for taking the time to respond to my questions, Captain. Safe travels!
I am 12 years old and have now read your book twice. It is such an amazing story that shows how safe we are in the air. I am a massive aviation nerd (and a proud one) and I have had one flying lesson. After reading your book (twice) I was left wondering why did you fail your route check? Was it some sort of requirement such as having to make it to the destination or not having input from the check captains?
A fellow programmer and aviation enthusiast
In your book, if I remember correctly, you said you’d apply braking only after nosewheel touchdown to stop Nancy-Bird Walton. Is there any specific reason for this? Are there pitching moments that can potentially come with heavy brakes on the A380? Or is it an SOP for landings in general?
I am impressed you noticed this nuance on page 241.
Normally, the brakes can be applied before the nose wheel touches down. The aircraft autobrakes normally apply at the earliest of 5 seconds after the spoilers extend, or after nose wheel touchdown.
For the QF32 landing, it was IMPERATIVE that I did not apply brakes until the nose wheel touched down. The editors cut the amplified explanation for this reasoning (along with 50% of the other details) from the final manuscript.
Here are the factors why I had to delay braking until the nose wheel touched down on the runway:
The failure of these spoilers meant that lift would not be dumped during touchdown and so less downward force would be applied to the wheels (to prevent braked wheels skidding-blowing) during touchdown.
I was aware of all of these factors when preparing for the landing. However I did not have sufficient free mental space to remember all these factors as I approached the landing and flare. So I made a conscious decision to summarise these factors as a mental instruction:
Simplifying the logic worked. The data recorders showed the remaining operative brakes being applied immediately after the nose wheel landed.
Six months after the QF32 event, I discovered that the left wing brakes never functioned. We did not know this failure in the air, so our performance figures that assumed the left wing brakes worked, were wrong. But that’s another story…
I have a questions ,
What would of happened if you put the parking break on during landing? Would the tyres-brakes catch on fire?
Good question Yota,
If the park brake is applied in the air, then the ECAM system will warn the pilots of the anomaly with “BRAKES – PARK BRAKE ON” any time from 1500 feet after takeoff until landing.
The park brake overrides all other brake modes as well as the Anti-skid systems. So if the brake was not released, then
Dear Captain de Crespigny,
Greetings from Singapore, a country whose airport you will be all too familiar with. I have just finished reading your book QF32 and I found it inspiring and riveting. You and your team on QF32 exemplify the highest order of professionalism, dedication and passion in the aviation industry. May you have a fulfilling and safe aviation career. All the best and God bless.
Thank you Kah Kay for your kind words.
I am pleased you enjoyed reading QF32. I hope my next book continues to express my passion for this wonderful profession.
Best wishes to you and your Singaporean friends. Rich
Good evening Capt. de Crespigny,
I started your book just this past weekend, and couldn’t put it down. I consumed it in one sitting. Absolutely compelling. I regret not reading it earlier. (I can partly blame my father for holding on to it for so many months, unwilling to let it leave his bedside)
I have two questions for you, if you’re up for answering them?
Firstly, I was mortified to read that you didn’t pass your “check” on that flight. I was offended on your behalf! Was it due to a technicality, that the flight didn’t arrive in Sydney as scheduled?
Secondly, did you ever get to the bottom of why the stall warning blared at you nearing touchdown, though not activate during your control checks?
Again, Sir, absolutely marvellous book, an unmatched show of calm, composure, skill, and airmanship. Many people owe their lives to you and your crew that day, Sir.
I think the stall warning activated due to a wind shift prior to landing. We had a 1 knot (very reduced) margin to the SPEED SPEED warning. When the wind shifted, the margins were reduced even further.
I think, doing the control checks was the best decision that day to bullet-proof the approach and mitigate for many subsequent events.
Just in case you’re interested (and you probably may not be) there’s a fairly lively forum discussion on airliners.net at the moment re: QF32 and if you could have handled things differently:
I usually use airliners.net mostly to look at photos of aircraft in my capacity as an avid aviation enthusiast. However some of the forum topics are quite good, if not slightly American-centric. Although like with a lot of social media things can degenerate into arguments and personal attacks sometimes.
I’ve put a few comments on there myself – My handle on there is ‘Aussieben’
For your information – or amusement 🙂
I think the pilot population is split 50:50 on whether we should have:
I still think both of these decisions we made were 100% correct for our conditions. I have written and spoken at length on both these topics. For example:
Diagnosing 4th Generation-Jet aircraft is not like diagnosing old tractors with discrete wires, cables, pulleys and bell cranks. The new aircraft, especially their FBW controls are all networked, electronic and computer controlled. The pilot must understand what the computers will authorise and how the aircraft will perform before making an approach. This skill requires deep technical knowledge and training to remain calm. It’s OK to make an approach before carrying out these (threat and error analysis) activities if you are on fire or out of fuel, but the risks increase exponentially and in this case the aim is to reducing the number of, rather than preventing fatalities.
Computer programming is not always pearls-in, pearls-out, sometimes (and in our case on QF32) it’s garbage-in, garbage-out.
The ATSB investigators went to extreme efforts to show the ECAM trail during QF32. The workflow diagram showed the ECAMs we did, and the System Display screens that auto-presented and more importantly, the system screens that we manually selected. One day I will detail this work flow in detail. There are audit trails though showing the manual displaying of the;
This audit trail shows our actions (and suggests my thoughts) very well.
The ATSB never suggested any improvements to our decisions.
I am driven by the imperative to never have to stand in a dock in court to explain why a member of my crew or passenger has perished. Within this context, I always welcome the opportunity to admit errors, learn from others’ suggestions and criticisms. Other pilots will make their own and different decisions on the day, and will most likely survive. I am an empirical sceptic, so hypotheses must always be presented logically with supporting facts and statistics.
To be clear – it’s never about me, my crew, my airline or ego. It’s always about safety for the passengers and crew. I am a servant in this context.
Safe flying, Rich
Thanks Richard for the reply – This is the first opportunity I’ve had to read it in detail. I find your explanations of being an empirical sceptic particularly interesting. Although I’m surprised that there appears to be a 50/50 split in the pilot population on the decision you made.
I suppose hindsight is always a wonderful thing. While I understand the opening poster on the airliners.net forum questioning if things could have been done differently. I do disagree with them in my replies for broadly the same reasons as you’ve stated here. Although you’ve worded it a lot better than I have.
Thank you and safe flying to you too
Have you ever had a medical emergency whilst flying the A380?
Yes quite a few Missy Dean.
Anything can happen and you have to expect the unexpected when 484 strangers of all ages, types and health board our A380s.
In fact we had a medical emergency on my seven hour flight yesterday from Dubai to London. One of our cabin cabin crew was approached by a passenger who complained of being uncomfortable. The crewmember detected the passenger was actually showing signs of a more severe problem.
The cabin crew reassigned their roles and priorities then jumped into action. They calmed and stabilised the passenger and then treated the problem, with the help of directions (via many satellite phone calls) from specialist doctors in a USA hospital, and specialist doctors on board. All this at 1,0000 kmph.
Up front, we were researching and planning in case we had to divert to a suitable airport. Anthony (First Officer) declared a medical emergency to London before our approach to ensure we received priority and no delays for our approach and landing. An ambulance met our aircraft on arrival. The passenger recovered.
“Delivering loved ones home”, by Coplu.
We hope to never become ill on a long haul flight overseas. If we do, then we hope there is a well trained team of experts to respond to and help us on foreign soil.
Pilots don’t just fly aircraft, we deliver loved ones home. It’s our job to care for those who are less fortunate than ourselves.
My crew excelled yesterday. This is what they are trained to do. I feel proud. The passenger is very fortunate.
Just looking at the recent Singapore Airlines incident where a Milan bound 777 returned to Changi and the engine/wing caught fire after landing. I realise it’s still early days in that investigation. However a lot has already been said speculating why the aircraft was not evacuated. Similar issues were raised with why you did not evacuate QF32 upon landing. You explain this well in the book. In hindsight the decision not to evacuate the SQ flight appears to have been correct also. I would think the SQ crew would have been ready to go at a moments notice and the fire was bought under control fairly quickly.
However would you have hesitated to evacuate QF32 had a fire started? I imagine there still would be some consideration given towards the risk of putting your passengers into a situation where they would likely be exposed to flames and fuel spills, not to mention the likely injuries from an exit down the emergency slides. Whereas looking at the situation onboard, if there was no smoke in the cabin and the fire crew are dealing effectively with the situation outside. I imagine it still would be a considered decision not to evacuate? I think this is where the SQ crew where thinking – weighing up the overall risk/safety factors.
In the case of fire on an aircraft, time seems to be of the essence.
Would you have evacuated QF32 at the first sign of a fire had that occurred? Or still weighed up all the factors re: if passengers are safer staying put?
Good questions Ben. I answered them a while ago. Rich
Lessons from QF32 – The Empiricle Skeptic
Oh thanks – Very interesting.
This gives a very good explanation of all the factors.
I especially found the part about the flammability of jet fuel very interesting.
By the way, despite being a fantasy – the scene in Die Hard where the plane blows up after he ignites the trail of jet fuel is still one of my favourite film scenes 🙂
However thanks for clarifying the reality.
I will be flying from Melbourne to LAX on Saturday April 8th on QF93. I am a Qantas Frequent Flyer and have often flown from Perth (where I live), to the US on Qantas.
Unfortunately, I have a fear of flying. I became aware recently, that Nancy Bird Walton is currently flying this route (every 2nd day). I have checked Flight Radar 24 and according to the flight history, I will be flying on Nancy Bird Walton to LA on April 8th.
I am petrified due to the fact the she was the aircraft involved in the incident in November, 2010. I have read about the extensive repairs (87 000 hours) and how she is now flying “as good as new”. Unfortunately, this does little to allay my fears! I am worried that the fuselage my crack or an engine may fall off (I hear you laughing now 🙂
I realise that these fears are ridiculous. This comes from watching too many episodes of “Air Crash Investigations”, where planes that have previously been repaired have been involved in accidents due to the repair work not being carried out properly. My very first flight as an adult on United Airlines (Melbourne to LAX) was severely turbulent for around 8 hours and we had a missed approach when we arrived in LA, due to fog/smog. I think this may have contributed to my fear of flying.
I did a course some time ago now, and I have been much better. When I realised though, that it is highly likely I will be on this aircraft, I became very worried.
I wish you were going to be at the helm on April 8th. I would feel a lot better! Any advice?
You are very fortunate to be flying in Nancy-Bird Walton. Her repair was probably the longest and most expensive in aviation history and to exceptional standards. Indeed Nancy-Bird is more like a new aircraft than any in the rest of the fleet.
The fear of flying has emotional and cognitive drivers. Even if you believe the fact that flying is 1,000 times safer than driving a car to the airport, these facts do not allay emotional fears.
Eliminating your fear of flying involves understanding, then engaging with, then learning how to control your emotional mind. This is achievable. However, in your current state of high stress, your awareness of stress feeds back on itself to heighten the stress even more, trigger the fear response and thus elevate the fear more than before. In this regard you are your worst emotional enemy.
Getting over the fear of flying involves amongst many things, you stopping yourself pumping your senses with fear! You have to calm your senses to be below the tipping point where stress becomes a positive (bad) feedback to your senses. This process cannot be taught, it must be experienced and so a true fear of flying course should be held in an aircraft. When I’m beside you on the aircraft, I can draw your attention to your senses, your awareness and fears, then redirect your attention to stop you concentrating on fear and thus pumping your senses. I have about a 90 percent success rate on board the A380.
The neuroscience of fear of flight is a complex topic. I have written more on this topic in my next book due out later this year. I recommend this excellent article by Les Posen
Hang in there…. You are safe on any QF A380 and your fear is curable.
If I have just one piece of advice then here it is: Keep your fingers relaxed, fanned and outstretched on each hand. DO NOT CLENCH YOUR FISTS. Feel the enjoyment of rhythmically and repeatedly stretching then relaxing you fingers. If you consciously keep your fingers outstretched, then you will reduce your stress.
Best wishes. Rich
Firstly, I was absolutely delighted to receive a reply from you. I realise that you must be extremely busy and I greatly appreciate you taking the time to reply to me.
Your writing makes complete sense. I would love to know more about the neuroscience of the fear of flying. I am sure I would find it very interesting, and it would be most helpful 🙂
It was very reassuring to read that Nancy-Bird Walton flies now as a newer plane the rest. I was telling myself this yesterday, before I wrote to you, however hearing it from you made a big difference. I had also read from another webpage that you have since flown on her and this reassured me also!
What you mentioned about stress and panic is so true. I could relate to everything you were saying. You are right.
I am sure that if I was on a flight with you, right then and there my fear of flying would be cured. I say this because I have never (until now) had the privilege of speaking to a “real” pilot before about my fear of flying. The strange thing is, that when I am in a boat and the ocean is rough, I love it. When I am driving overseas in the US, on a twelve lane freeway, my pulse doesn’t change at all. I love it. But when I am on a plane and the turbulence starts, I immediately begin to stress.
Turbulence and bad weather are my triggers. I saw a movie named “Fire and Rain” about the Delta Airlines flight 191 that crashed in Dallas in 1985. Now I worry about wind shear and thunderstorms.
On this upcoming trip, I will be flying from Charlotte to LAX, via Dallas. More worries because it’s DFW, Crazy, I know!
Any further help you can offer would be greatly appreciated. I wish that one day I will have the honour of flying with you as my pilot.
Landing QF32 that day in November was nothing short of miraculous. This may sound silly, but I truly believe that you were meant to be on the flight that that day.
Thank you again for your advice and suggestions. They have helped me immensely. I will read the links that you gave me also. Mum and I fly back to Australia on Friday April 21st, on QF94. I have a feeling that I will fly on Nancy-Bird on either April 8th (QF 93) or on the 21st. Perhaps it is meant to be, so that when I get off the plane at the other end, I can turn back to face the plane, and say, “I had the honour of flying on Nancy-Bird Walton”, (Strangely, I LOVE aeroplanes!!!) I will take some photos of her and turn and salute her.
Captain de Crespigny, I salute you 🙂
Relax and let the pilots with “chronic unease” do the worrying …
You wrote: “Turbulence and bad weather are my triggers. I saw a movie named “Fire and Rain” about the Delta Airlines flight 191 that crashed in Dallas in 1985. Now I worry about wind shear and thunderstorms.”
Pilots have a healthy “chronic unease” for flying. We are skeptical people who hopefully identify trends and anticipate problems in advance so the threat can be neutralised, fixed or mitigated. When we do this we are better prepared for the unexpected, calm during stressful situations and comfortable with the uncomfortable.
I fly into Dallas fairly frequently. Before I fly I look at my knowledge base of notes for Dallas. Here is a section of my notes.
Delta Air Lines Flight 191 crashed at Dallas/Ft Worth (http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19850802-0)
– low altitude with a microburst-induced, severe windshear in Thunderstorm
– 1806 hrs, 2 August 1985
I revisit Delta Flight 191 every time I fly into Dallas – to ensure I learn from that event 32 YEARS ago and never repeat it.
Delta is a great airline. They and all other airlines have learned a lot from this accident. I use the accident to repeatedly refresh myself how to recognise a situation like that in future so I can avoid/recover from it. When an event like that is fresh in your mind, you are prepared for the unexpected and will respond calmly, carefully and mindfully.
Delta Flight 191 was the first accident attributed to microbursts, and that term is now common vernacular. We have learned from Flight 191 so it should not happen again. (Video of a microburst)
I have “chronic unease” for the status quo and think about Delta Flight 191 frequently. This is my responsibility. It’s also the reason why I feel prepared, informed, in control, calm and safe.
Justine, flying is one of the most remarkable activities a human can experience. Go flying, relax and enjoy the awesome journey.
Thank you for your reply. You have helped me to feel much safer about flying into Dallas and flying in general!
I am going to enrol in the next fearful flyer course that Qantas offers. I think it will be very beneficial for me.
I have read your notes/links that you sent me with great interest. I have printed them out so I can reread them when necessary. I will take them on my trip to the US. I also enjoyed some of the photos you have included with some of your notes. There was one picture in particular stating “Keep calm and carry on“. It was a picture full of love-hearts. It brought me instant peace. I will look at it often. I also enjoyed the one of the calm horizon at dusk. Yes, every traveller’s perfect scene!!!
I have also been practising the advice you gave me – my hands are outstretched and my fingers open 🙂 I do this every time I think about flying and if there is a negative thought about it.
It was most interesting to read your comments about pilots being “skeptical” people. This helped a lot as I feel better knowing that the pilots in the cockpit anticipate that anything can happen, and they use what they know from the past to make sure it is not repeated.
I have been fearful of flying into Dallas for a long time. I feel good that it will help me to conquer my fears. In my mind, I keep on seeing a sunny day, with clear blue skies. I remind myself that this happened 32 years ago (just like you mentioned).
Thank you once again for your time and your help. It has made a huge difference for me.
Hi Richard – It’s interesting to hear about ‘Fire and Rain’ and the Delta 191 accident. I remember seeing this movie years ago, probably not long after it was released.
What you say about pilots having a ‘chronic unease’ for flying is fascinating. The Delta 191 crash was also covered in an episode of the ubiquitous ‘Air Crash Investigation’ and that seemed to portray the crew – particularly the Captain, as being overly cautious and even knowing and predicting exactly what would happen to the aircraft as they entered the microburst. That ‘chronic unease’ was evident and it seems they were doing all the right things right up until the final moments. My only question would be why the captain didn’t take control and initiate a missed approach as soon as he recognised the wind shear conditions. He seemed more intent to talk or guide the First Officer through it. Having said that its easy to be a Monday morning quarterback – Especially 32 years after the event.
I don’t have a fear of flying myself, I enjoy flying and mainly fly regional turboprop sectors about once a month. However I do become slightly uncomfortable during a rough weather landing. Last winter I was in a regional turboprop (not Qantaslink) An East coast low was hammering Sydney and Sydney Airport was down to cross runway/single runway operations due to the wind. It was by far the roughest approach I’ve experienced. As we headed towards runway 25, I would go as far as to say that the approach wasn’t anywhere near stabilised until very short final – ie. well over the runway threshold. I’m by no means critical of the crew – they pulled off a very good landing in challenging conditions and certainly earned their pay that day. However what is the margin for error under such circumstances? Why would a missed approach not have been done? Or is it more a matter of saying ‘The winds aren’t going to improve if we go around so we simply have to make the best landing possible out of what is always going to be a bad approach?’ Interested to know your thoughts. Thanks, Ben .
All I can say about the approach to Sydney during the “East Coast Low” is that my airline has six very clear and definite requirements for the continuation of flight under 500 feet above the ground. Pilots are very aware of the idiosyncrasies of weather, the requirements to fly a stable approach and be safe.
I cannot second guess the pilots’ actions that day. One of the requirements for a stable approach is the “Airspeed, Thrust and ROD are correct for the configuration and prevailing conditions”. You could only have sufficient information to assess the headwind, crosswind, airspeed, cloud, visibility, thrust, ROD and approach path (all required for one of the six conditions) if you were in either of the two pilot seats. I wont go into the other five.
Flight data recorders alert and flag attention to every transgression of key limitations.
I have the highest respect for V and Q pilots. Australian Pilots are highly trained and the most checked pilots in the world. Each pilot in my airline is checked and recertified to fly seven times a year.
I’m not a pilot myself (unless you count flight simming for fun) I’m more of an enthusiast. It’s hard to say, but based on my frequent approaches I would find it hard to say that the approach was stabilised by 500 feet. It felt like we were still being thrown around until maybe about 100 feet above the ground or maybe lower. The other passengers were actually verbalising concern about the severe turbulence and at that point I would say we were well below 1000 feet and probably below 500. Having said that it may very well have been more stabilised than what it felt. It did feel like the ROD was high at stages and the thrust was higher than usual right up until very short final. However I wasn’t on the flight deck so I can’t verify we weren’t within the parametres you identified. I can only go off what I feel is ‘usual’ as a frequent flyer, I’ve had rough approaches before and since. However this one will always be a standout in my memory.
Dear Captain Champion de Crespigny,
I would like to say thank you, for your kindness,on the flight from London to Dubai on 1st March 2016. Your invite to view the cockpit of the A380-800, in Dubai Airport made this old mariner happy and proud to know there are persons like you in this world.
I wish you good luck, safe flights for you, your crews and passengers.
Hi Richard – I’ve been the proud owner of the QF32 book for a few years now and have posted a few times already in this readers comments section.
I’ve always wanted to ask you if you could share your thoughts on the QF1 incident when a 747-400 aquaplaned off the runway in Bangkok in 1999 – Especially from the point of view of CRM practices and how they compared to what you did on QF32. I appreciate the incidents are different in nature
With QF32 you had time to evaluate the situation and plan/prepare for a landing. Even though the situation overall was probably more dangerous with leaking fuel, overweight aircraft, failed systems etc, it could at least be prepared for, as apposed to QF1 where things just seemed to escalate very rapidly and without warning.
I’ve always been fascinated by the QF1 incident. I have read the ATSB report several times. From my reading of it, it appears the crew where simply overwhelmed by events in rapidly deteriorating weather. It does appear that CRM was probably not followed in the ideal way – Although I’m by no means being critical of the crew.
As an Aviation enthusiast I’m simply not qualified to be an armchair critic. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it would seem easy to look at particular events and say ‘if only this had happened’ etc.
I do understand that in the heat of the moment you only have split seconds to make decisions. However I would appreciate any thoughts you have on QF1 from a CRM and overall safety/crew training perspective.
G’day Captain De Crespigny,
Firstly I hope you are keeping well and also your family.
I would be interested to know how you were able to get to publication of your work. Exciting and as riveting as your QF32 story was, can you enlighten us on the pitfalls of getting a work to publication. I am sure there were many setbacks and frustrations.
I am going to take you back a few years, and as I gather you and I have about the same tread wear in years behind us, I am sure you will remember the following well. On the 18th January, 1977, Australia’s worst train accident occurred when a locomotive hauled passenger train left the rails and struck bridge supports at Granville in Sydney’s west. The bridge collapsed on wooden bodied carriages below. The official death toll was 83. I am sure you would remember where you were when you heard news of that disaster.
A few days ago, it was my privilege to give a bit longer than a short presentation to a number involved in that incident including those trapped for hours in the wreckage, rescue and recovery workers, other passengers and attempted to enlighten then on a theory which I believe correctly explains the derailment. The problem was that the locomotive lead wheelsets were worn beyond condemning level such that a difference in wheel diameter of 1.6mm existed at the time of the derailment. 1mm is the maximum difference allowed under current standards. This mismatch resulted in a textbook wheel flange climb derailment. Why a locomotive with this condition was allowed to operate has never been explained. I do not believe that we have been officially truthfully dealt with concerning this matter thus far.
In my presentation, I included photos of VH-OQA and the damaged engine as well as an annotated photograph of the oil feed stub pipe (all extracted from the ATSB report). My point was that a dimensional failure of less than 1mm – and from the ATSB diagram, I believe in the case of QF32 the misalignment was a bit less than 0.8mm – could cause very serious life threatening problems on otherwise large scale machines.
Perhaps a part of history that you might not have been so familiar with, but can I point out that Qantas is perhaps a part of the history of the Granville Train Disaster. I refer to a Letter to the Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald on 24th January, 1977 by R J Ritchie, Former General Manager, Qantas Airways Limited wherein he writes
“… Qantas has not had a fatal accident on its wide-ranging international flights for more than 30 years, although it has grown to be the world’s ninth largest international airline.
The exemplary record has been blessed with only a fair amount of good fortune. Rather it has been due to an uncompromising policy concerning safety, the selection of the best aircraft, their proper overhaul and maintenance and modification, the highest standards of technical and cabin aircrew and the dedication of more than 13,000 employees. …”
Whilst Mr Ritchie had perhaps had an excerpt series called “Destination Disaster” in mind, just printed in the Herald – an account of the then world’s worst air disaster with the loss of 346 lives near Paris on 3rd March 1974 – he prefaced his letter with a reference to the train tragedy of just a few days before. Of course, sadly, that aviation record (also mentioned by Mr Ritchie) was to be eclipsed just weeks later by the two 747 aircraft colliding at Tenerife in the Canary Islands on the 27th March, 1977.
Time has moved on and change has occurred but I feel sure that the main sentiments of Mr Ritchie hold true today and not just with Qantas, but also their colleague (or “competitor”!) airlines flying in Australia today.
Could I just comment with a recommendation that if anyone, for whatever reason, who may have been involved in a traumatic incident, and are subsequently finding they are not travelling too well, that they seek assistance. Talk with a GP, contact BeyondBlue, ring Lifeline or the Salvos Help Line. There is no need to go it alone.
On a happier note, could I just remark that I occasionally drive past your office of days gone by – 747-400 VH-OJA, now peacefully retired at Albion Park. I think the “old girl” is in good hands. What a great gesture by Qantas to have that aircraft preserved. Her landing at Albion Park was an electric experience! I was privileged to watch that.
With Kind Regards,
Thank you for your stories. Rail and aviation safety has a lot in common, and they share the same contributing factors when accidents occur.
We take nothing for granted in aviation. We harbour a chronic unease, refuse to accept the status quo, a resistance to safety fatigue, and we are always trying to be prepared for and expect, the unexpected.
VH-OJA, Qantas’ first 747-400 has a new and great home at Albion Park. I flew her many times – it is dear to my heart.
Kind Regards – Rich
Hello, Captain. Happy New Year!
It’s exciting to see that you will be giving a lecture in Montreal, but is this the only speech you’ll be giving in Canada? I am trying to come up with the logistics to attend, but it is problematic.
Yes this is my only talk. I am busy trying to finish my next book!
I hope to see you in Montreal! Rich
Why did we stay in the air for such a long time? Were you and your colleagues not concerned about the structural integrity of the port wing after the #2 uncontained failure given the sizable hole that I noticed one of your colleagues (from memory the 2nd Officer) view?
Hi Rod, that is a long answer that is provided in the QF32 book. Have you read “QF32”?
QF32 is an outstanding and gripping read. It is also a vivid case study of leadership, teamwork and decision-making under inordinate pressure.
The insights are highly relevant for other contexts such as operating theaters.
QF32 is also a gift for fearful flyers, as I was for decades despite doing a fear of flying course. I recommend the book to others with fear of flying.
Many thanks Captain de Crespigny!
Another question from the QF32 event.
I’m interested to know if the fan of the failed No.2 engine was windmilling or stationary(from seizure) after the explosion, and which of these conditions would incur the greater drag?
My current understanding related to the subject is an unfeathered windmilling propeller would produce greater drag compared to an unfeathered stationary condition (you may know of this from your Caribou days).
Hi Greg. I am not sure if the engine was windmilling as the engine instruments were all “crossed” (X) and I did not get any feedback from the passengers.
For a fixed pitch fan, the drag would be less for a windmilling fan than a seized fan.
Having read your book QF32 and a number of resources available online, please let me ask one question regarding a video interview on youtube.
During the interview, you talk about the decision whether to follow the ECAM instructions to switch off the ENG 4 hydraulic pumps (“5 and 6”), and how you suggested that everybody think about this for some seconds before pressing the guarded pushbutton, to figure out if it makes sense to reduce redundancy on the still working yellow hydraulic system.
The journalists asks you whether, in hindsight, you have found an explanation as to why ECAM would prompt you to switch those pumps off, and your answer is somewhat along the lines of, you were not allowed to disclose those details at that time, but it would be in the final report, and we should be surprised when reading the answer.
Of course, I have also read the final report, but obviously I missed the respective answer (it is quite an overwhelming read; I cannot even imagine what kind of experience that must have been for you in the real-life situation).
So I would kindly like to ask, whether you could today share a few technical insights into that question (i.e. if it is legal for you today). Why was it sensible to switch off the ENG 4 HYD pumps? Was it? 😉
Thank you very much,
Mike from Germany
Thanks for your question. Please click here to view my reply.
Hullo, Captain Richard,
I’ve just finished re-reading my (paper) copy of ‘QF32’, As a long-term aviation enthusiast, serious flight-sim devotee, electronics and computer hobbyist with a particular focus on air safety, I could only find your book enthralling. As a retired English teacher, I can also applaud your concise yet engaging style.
Heartfelt thanks to you, Matt, Mark, Michael, the Airbus engineers and everyone else who helped to bring VH-OQA back alive.
I have an involved question. While your book, ABC ‘Conversations’ interview and many other responses to the event provide extraordinary food for thought on many human factors in flight safety, and the excellence of Airbus existing systems design, redundant engineering etc. is evident, I have found very little to read about what technical lessons have been learned from the event. I am thinking especially of:
The shut-down matter, for instance, seems to warrant major attention. Had you (or ground engineers) some means of remotely shutting down No.1 engine immediately or shortly after stopping, the on-ground aftermath would surely have been far safer, less contentious and shorter.
Anyway, I have many more thoughts and questions, but it all boils down to this: have Airbus and the relevant authorities been systematically and intensively studying the engineering and software implications of the massive damage QF 32 suffered, and are there any publicly available, technically informed documents outlining what design lessons can be learned?
I’m not referring to, say, the crucial stub pipe or (consequently discovered) rib feet fatigue cracks; rather, I’m thinking about possible revisions of the FBW laws, innovative ways to provide still more basic command and control alternatives for spoilers, ailerons, jettison systems and so on. I think you’ll get my drift.
So, Captain, can you point me towards any relevant papers, conference records, individual observations etc.? I know, as you point out, that this particular technical misadventure might not happen again; but uncontained failures surely will, as will other accidents causing massive structural and systems damage.
I reckon lessons learned from QF 32 could ameliorate the consequences of other unforeseen calamities in the future, or even prevent some of them.
Sorry to keep you, Captain. I hope I’ve not wasted too much of your time. Thanks again.
Sorry for the delay in answering your question. It has taken me a long time to document answers to your questions. Please refer to:
After reading QF32 several times, I’m truly impressed with the level of redundancy of the A380’s systems, which no doubt played a large part in the QF32 recovery.
What are your thoughts Richard of the A380, like the Boeing 747, seeing a 40+ year(and counting) developmental career, and unlike the 747, be fatality free for this period?
I do acknowledge the Boeing 747 did set new benchmarks for air safety, so this may be a tall order.
The A380 deserves to be accident free. The A380’s remarkable airframe strength, redundancy and resilience will contribute enormously to the A380 having a wonderful operational career.
However the A380 will only remain accident free if the aviation regulators, manufacturers, airlines, services and crew maintain their dedication to protect the safety systems, culture and to have a “Chronic Unease” for errors and accidents.
This is an enormous challenge that should never be underestimated nor taken for granted.
The Aviation industry has a complex safety infrastructure. The safety and management systems that progressively make aviation safer each year have evolved over the past 110 years. However these systems that have served us well in the past cannot guarantee to protect us into the future.
Eternal vigilance is the key to safety. We will only be safe if our skills evolve and safety rules are enforced. We must be mindful of all threats that face aviation and have the courage and tenacity to remove or to mitigate those threats.
Vigilance includes having effective systems in place to provide:
Vigilance includes having a healthy state of unease, restlessness and paranoia for safety. Accidents must be regarded not as being “unfortunate” but as being “unthinkable”. We must learn from the thousands of “near misses” that occur each week world wide to identify new problems that can be fixed that in turn will prevent future disasters.
We must all have a sense of “Chronic Unease”. Ann Pickard (Exec VP, Arctic, Shell) endorses “Chronic Unease” as a state of mindfulness to prevent accidents before they occur. Chronic Unease is about pre-mortems, not post mortems. “Chronic Unease” works for Shell. “Chronic Unease” also works for aviation.
The industry must be “healthy” to remain vigilant and resilient. There must be sufficient company profit to enable compliance with the world’s best safety practices and to enable a reasonable return to ALL stakeholders.
Pilots save lives. A confident, knowledgeable, well trained and experienced pilot is the single most important piece of safety equipment in any aircraft. Pilots must retain the flying skills to recover an aircraft whether it be stalled, inverted, spinning or on fire. See also my article “Resilience – Recovering pilots’ lost flying skills” that was published by The Royal Aeronautical Society, London in June 2015.
Teamwork is an excellent multiplier for safety. Because the responsibility ultimately rests on a well trained and knowledgeable crew to save the aircraft in the event of a Black Swan Event, or in cases where there are multiple failures. Captain Sully Sullenberger and Commander Jim Lovell (Apollo 13) serve as exemplars of pilots who have lead teams in terrible circumstances and saved lives.
Only with these protection systems and cultures in place will the aviation industry be able to deliver on our promise to safely deliver our passengers to their loved ones after every flight.
Only in this environment will the A380 have a 50 year fatality-free life.
I agree: pilots save lives.
The only variable the passenger has control over is which airline. So choose one that has good planes & great pilots.
I’m pretty annoyed that flying from Perth to Europe doesn’t offer QF operated flights at present. Louise
I just finished your book and I might say that it is not suitable for before bed reading, as even though I had read the final report before and knew the outcome, I was still quite wired by the masterfully written gripping drama.
I have a question about matters that you might not want to discuss or have not enough information about but which were left in the air.
The ATSB’s Final Report on QF32 focuses mainly on recommendations to Rolls-Royce and touches only very lightly on Airbus’s involvement. Can you maybe give some insight into what Airbus learned from this flight and did they make any changes to the design and/or operations of the A380 systems/layout/automation?
It too four months, however here is the answer to your question Jaanus.
Once again, thank you so much for your empathic address at the Albury SSA club on October 25th.
As an Albury resident and aviation enthusiast I’ve watched the Uiver memorial DC2 languish for many years, and your address is a greatly appreciated impetus to the restoration project.
I’ve collected your signature on my copy of QF32 during the event, and read it a third time, and find I’m still getting a clearer picture of just how tenuous this emergency was.
Was the reason you couldn’t use full flaps because you didn’t have slats/droops, and so would have incurred a reduced stalling AOA?
I imagine the back end of the drag curve was fairly steep without slats, was there the danger of simply running into a stall from speed instability, while not been able to apply a sufficient thrust increase quickly enough with the one engine, while lacking auto-thrust(as Concorde always relied on at the back end of the drag curve)?
Meanwhile Richard, I look forward to the release of your “Big Jets” book, I’m sure this will explain a lot. Have a Merry Christmas where ever you are in the world.
Thanks for your kind comments.
We used CONFIGuration 3 (Flaps at 26 (of max 32) degrees), but no slats and half aileron droop (because half the ailerons were failed). The maximum speed for CONF 3 is 196 knots. Our approach speed was 166 kts (though with the 1.19 stall margin it should have been about 190 knots)
The Landing Performance Application (LDPA) gave us a landing solution that required CONF 3. I think it required CONF 3 to satisfy the 2.4% Approach Climb Performance requirements (CAO 20.7.1B para 10) with the overweight aircraft in the landing configuration and with one engine inoperative.
The slats dramatically increases the lift and the stalling angle of attack. The slats operate in environments of incredible stress. Indeed, at high weights, the upper speed limit of 263 knots for CONFiguration 1 is to protect the slats from supersonic flow in the slat gaps at high weights!
I have read your book several times and found in it a lot to learn.
I just found today this 45mn long youtube video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-IwXospJkM and I feel it very interesting also.
Hi Captain de Crespigny,
Being an aviation enthusiast I have read QF32, and have also delighted in some responses to questions from you in the past, thankyou.
I am also extremely interested in learning and trying to understand the reasons behind aircraft accidents and incidents and do occasionally follow The Aviation Herald online.
There have been a few incidents in the past published on this site in regard to the A380 and turbulence related injuries. Most of the time these are cabin crew injuries which one can assume occur as staff are not seated with belts on when the turbulence hits during cruise or descent. The latest being ‘Air France A388 near Leeds on Nov 4th 2014, turbulence injures three cabin crew’.
How then does the A380 with all its power, responsiveness, technological advances and ‘Dance of the Ailerons’ (as explained in QF32) allow these accidents and incidents to occur? Are these due to extreme weather incidents that no aircraft would ever be able to blanket against, or certain airlines flying into conditions they should be avoiding?
I realise each incident is different to the next and occurs at a different FL and set of weather circumstances, but in your opinion does it surprise you to hear of these incidents occurring considering the A380 is meant to be the most stable aircraft there is?
I always keep my belt on regardless for this reason, but worry for the cabin crew who do put themselves at some risk for our care.
Today we celebrate having survived a fourth year of life since the QF32 event – thanks to the leadership, skill and expertise of the Captain Richard de Crespigny – along with his fellow pilots and crew of QF32 – as well as over a thousand associated personnel from several different countries who worked so hard to bring our plane to safety on November 4th 2010.
We comment as the two passengers who were seated closest to the rear of the engine when it exploded. We remained blissfully unaware of the danger we were in whilst airborne, due to the exemplary quality of crisis management by the pilots and crew. However, we were in a prime position to witness the danger we were in whilst on the runway and to see firsthand the courage and bravery of those who sought to help us by risking their own lives to render the runway safe.
To each and every one of those people who came to our aid (over 1,000 personnel in several different countries) – and particularly to Captain de Crespigny for brilliantly documenting the entire trajectory of this crisis situation – we are sincerely grateful. As we read the book in competition with each other, my husband Derwyn and I sat on the edge of our seats elbowing each other out of the way to get to the final page – and we knew it had a happy ending!
To say ‘thank you’ will never be enough. In these days when budget airlines are gaining in popularity and given such prominence, may the text of QF32 be a lesson to us all.
Furthermore, it is to be hoped that the Executive Management Team of Qantas and the aviation industry generally will always appreciate the necessity for valuing and rewarding the dedication, bravery and expertise of pilots and crew of the calibre that we were so fortunate to have on board with us on that fateful day for the benefit of the flying public throughout the globe.
Dear Carolyn and Derwyn,
Thank you for your kind words that make our efforts to do our best all worth while.
Aeronautics is a business immersed in risk. The three failures of rocket powered spacecraft in the last three months (Virgin Galactic, Orbital Sciences and SpaceX) show us the extreme risks that adventurers take when they push through unknowns and adversity to open up new fields for human development. Changes come so rapidly these days that few of us have the time to stop, think and appreciate the risks that others take on our behalf. Furthermore, the public’s perception of risk in a new technology decays as the product transitions through the dangerous initial research phase, into a product for early adopters, then transitions again into a mature product for the “main street”.
It is a credit to everyone in the aeronautical industry (both past and present) that we have transitioned from the dangerously high risk environment of the early 1900s to become today the safest high risk transportation system on the planet.
So Carolyn and Derwyn, on behalf of the entire aeronautical industry, thank you for your thoughts that acknowledge our global team efforts.
We will continue to do everything possible to retain your trust and to keep the travelling public safe.
What is a definition of a turbine disk?
I have looked everywhere on the internet and I can not find one?
Are you able to help me?
Google it or please read my book. Rich
what affect do the slats have on the performance of the aircraft. e.g does the plane increase in altitude or decrease.
Slats increase the maximum coefficient of lift and the angle of attack that the maximum lift is attained. Think of it as a supercharger, extending the wing’s performance.
Thank you very much!!
Another question. Why was Nancy-Bird Walton overweight when you landed back at Changi Airport?
There is a long answer to this question, too long to write here.
Please read my book.
how long was QF 32 in the air for?? (from take-off to touchdown)
The emergency persisted for 2 hours in the air and 2 hours on the ground.
Would you know where I am able to purchase a Qantas pilots hat from?
I am doing presentation on Qantas and I thought it would be great if I could wear a hat worn by pilots today!
Is this possible?
Having read QF32 from cover to cover some time ago, I was interested in your thoughts on a few things.
I’m a long time aviation enthusiast and particularly interested in air safety issues and how CRM (good or poor) is a factor in either preventing or contributing to disasters. I saw ‘Air Crash Investigations’ last night regarding the United Flight 232 DC10 accident at Sioux City in 1989.
Flight 232 has been used as an example of really good CRM and how the loss of life, although tragic, was minimised by the actions of the crew in getting the aircraft so close to a successful landing. I know there has been comparisons between that accident and what happened on QF32. However looking at it, it appears the United crew had total loss of hydraulics and could only control the plane using engine power. Notwithstanding that QF32 had a massive fuel leak (which UA232 did not) you seemed to have a lot more control of the aircraft than the United crew.
Do you think the two accidents are comparable? How close do you think QF32 was to ending up like United 232? Also do you think a successful missed approach could have been executed by QF32 at Changi, if you had misjudged it? Or were you too close to stalling?
Many thanks many times over for QF32. The knowledge and professionalism you impart are brilliant.
Flight 232 and QF32 are not comparable. Al Haynes and his flight crew did what I think was almost impossible, to identify that his aircraft was in a phugoid (a term that 98% of pilots will not know), then use only thrust on two engines to control pitch and roll. I imagine that 99% of pilots would not be able to achieve what Al achieved that day. So I think that Al did an heroic deed that day, just like Sully Sullenberger did when he landed on the Hudson saving all of his passengers in 2008. So the QF32 incident in comparison, pales into insignificance. Al’s feat stands alone in history and the passengers on his flight were extraordinarily lucky to have had Al and his extraordinarily well trained crew in the flight deck that day.
QF32 could have ended differently (worse) if:
1. We attempted to go around on receipt of the speed and stall warnings (to get to safety and reassess performance) – engines 1 & 4 would probably have oversped and failed.
2. We had not conducted the control checks to prove the aerodynamics. (Refer to El Al Flight 1862)
3. We had rushed back to land; and
4. We assumed anything and had evacuated passengers (Refer to Empirical Sceptic)
Thanks Richard for the reply – That is what I thought.
What happened to the United flight was completely different. The only similarity seems to be that they were both uncontained engine failures. The control issues though seem to be very different. Yes I agree with you completely about the heroics of Al Haynes and his crew – Particularly the DC10 training captain that was a passenger on that flight and volunteered to assist with the engine controls. Great CRM indeed.
Also interested to hear about the possible overspeed of the engines if a go around on QF32 was attempted. Great that you managed to execute it so well on the first attempt. Thanks.
What is the function of the stub pipe?
Warning – Technical Answer
The Intermediate Pressure (IP) turbine case is one of the eight discrete modules that comprise every Trent 900 engine.
The Turbine Case houses the High Pressure (HP) and IP Turbine Bearing Housing. The Bearing Housing contains the HP and IP turbine roller bearings.
Logic suggests that the bearing housing is constructed as a separate component that is later assembled into the Turbine Case.
The stub pipe is a short female radial pipe assembled into the Bearing Module. The pipe receives an external male oil pipe that delivers oil from outside the bearing module. The stub pipe directs the oil to the HP and IP bearings contained within.
Oil is delivered from the oil pump to the bearings via a pipe that runs external rearwards outside the engine before turning 90 degrees and threading radially through struts, finally engaging with an interference fit with the stub pipe at the bearing housing.
The flange of the female stub pipe fitting in the bearing module had been incorrectly machined. It subsequently failed.
Thank you very much for the fast reply.
I am studying QF32 and am finding it an extremely interesting event and topic.
I love the book! It is very informative and explains everything in great detail. A must read.
I bought QF32 on the weekend and finished reading it today.
I agree with comments about QF32’s value as a management text. As a retired IT manager, I appreciated the insights.
I flew on Nancy-Bird (VH-OQA) before the incident, and again in late 2014, when the flight deck announcement said
“This is the aircraft that flew QF32 when the famous problem happened! You will be glad to hear that it is the most thoroughly-examined Airbus flying!” Nervous titter from some passengers, guffaw from others….
QFF3196 – you can tell from the number that I have been around a while. I have flown on just about every Western airframe since the DC3, and the A380 is definitely my favourite. So far I think I have 8/12 QF airframes in my “logbook”.
Question: p.346, what is “slingshot effect”?
OK, I saw the answer to my question about the Slingshot Effect elsewhere on this site.
I knew about this in that context because I was involved in rocket launches from Woomera, Australia in the 1960s. But thank you because I didn’t know that it made a measurable difference for jets. Perhaps the wording on p.346 could be revised in 2nd edition to make clearer that this is about fuel burn expectation rather than the weight of the aircraft as such, unlike say “length of a Concorde” which is about the airframe itself stretching as it heats. (I have flown in Concorde too – thrilling, yes, but at the end of flight hot and stuffy inside.)
John QF32 was written for the masses. The publisher cut the book down to half of what I presented complaining, Rich it’s too complex and too long. The publisher did an excellent job of simplifying the book and sometimes pages of text reverted down to a few single words.
I purposely kept away from discussing the Slingshot effect in QF32. I only added detail after you asked for it. I anticipated that many people would have trouble understanding the Slingshot Effect. This turned out to be true.
A few other nuggets that lace the script (Trim Drag, Wave Drag), address fascinating topics that unfortunately are too complex for QF32. Nevertheless the incredible numbers should impress the few technicians like you who understand engineering, aerodynamics and performance.
Consider for example the lift polar that is presented on page nine of the second set of photos. It provides proof that lift over two wings at approach speed was compromised and why the performance calculations were wrong and why event the flight instrument indications were wrong. I would need ten pages of text to describe the curves and their profound implications that probably only aerodynamicists would understand.
Likewise, I would have needed 50 pages of text to explain how the remarkable wing was designed from a competition of three offerings and why it curves this way and that way.
If you are interested then we could discuss this some time in the future over a beer/cup of tea.
Hello Captain de Crespigny!
I first heard about QF32 on “Air Crash Investigation”.
Being ultimately terrified of flying, I try to find “comfort” in how captains, co-pilots, and crew handle emergencies, and if they failed, why?
Seeing how you, your Co-Pilot, and your Crew handled the almost impossible situations that continued to arise, and how you landed with no fatalities or adding to the extreme damage of the aircraft, I felt safe and confident flying with Qantas.
I’ve only flown on the B747 (SYD-DFW), and frequently (twice a year)- but now I’m worried about getting on board the A380 for the first time, go figure.
Since Qantas are fare welling their B747s in favor of the A380s, will you be flying the SYD-DFW route, at all?
I have the ultimate pride and share your admiration for my fellow pilots and cabin crew in my airline.
However if you are afraid of boarding an Airbus A380 then the obvious reason for your underconfidence must be that you have not read my book QF32. I take this view not out of want for more sales, but because my purpose in writing QF32 was to present the A380 in technical terms that would be beyond doubt (to any reasonable person) as one of (if not the best) commercial aircraft that has ever graced our skies.
I’ll gladly refund your purchase price for QF32 if the book fails to change your worry and skepticism into admiration for Airbus, the A380’s designs, philosophies, the aircraft itself, its handling qualities and its remarkable resilience.
I fly to DFW on 4th October. Come fly with me and I’ll turn your worry into affection for the A380.
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to me!
I left a brief Twitter comment to you before finding this site, and wasn’t sure which you’d frequent to, so I’m glad and surprised 🙂
You must hear so much about the fear of flying, mine isn’t so much of flying. I do actually love being in the air, it’s of the realization that I’m “trapped”, and therefore helpless to potential mechanical and computer failure. That probably sounds rather unreasonable though, doesn’t it? Haha..
I believe that Qantas is the best and safest airline in the world. As I’ve said, long haul flights with Qantas, I’ve felt safe. Nothing beats that atmosphere once you’re on board with Qantas compared to other airlines. I only hope that someday Qantas could fly domestically within the US for connecting flights.
I wish that my travel to DFW was marked for October 4. My flight will be within the next 4 months, so hopefully the opportunity to be on another of your flights will present itself again.
I’ve been wanting to read your book. Even if it doesn’t take away my worry or concerns and there’s no refund, I’m interested in your story and your thoughts, perspective, and understanding of what happened on board QF32, and how it has affected or changed you. I can also be reasonable and rational once I better understand the A380, haha.
So I’ll purchase QF32 now!
Let me start off by saying that you’re an excellent pilot, not only by saving hundreds of those on board QF32 but also by the skills you demonstrated.
Today is June 26, which was the last day of school. Final exams are finally over, YAY! I’m planning to do some studying this summer, since i’m staying home. Your book sounds very interesting, and I want to purchase it.
Just a couple of questions I hope you can answer.
I went on the webpage that you provided to purchase the book. It costed $34.95 Australian dollars. I live in Edmonton, Canada, so we use Canadian dollars. Google says that 1 Australian dollar=1.01 Canadian dollars, but I hear other people saying that Canadian dollar is more worth, (which I think is probably incorrect). If converted into CAD, how much would the book cost? Can the system automatically convert the money itself?
Also, are there any additional fees for mailing the book?
P.S. I’m 14
Congratulations on finishing your exams! I just finished flying two simulator test flights so I know the feelings that you get after studying for weeks and the excitement of the event.
When ordering your paper copy of QF32, the http://qf32.aero web site will display your local currency after you enter your country and address. The shipping details are stored on the site. Please let me know if you have any problems.
Best of luck with your schooling, sports and passions!
I come from a medical background in which hi-fidelity simulation training has become employed as a education tool. The origins of this were in anaesthetics which bears considerable similarities to commercial aviation. Overall it a very safe specialty but occasionally unexpected potentially catastrophic events occur, particularly in sick, frail patients – ‘hours of boredom, moments of terror’. Since event rates are generally low, practitioners may become unpracticed or unaccustomed to situations when complex ‘black swan’ events evolve.
It was recognised that one possible solution is to expose doctors to these potential yet rare scenarios to improve their response times, problem-solving skills and team management. However, in simulation workshops which I have attended it involves intensive, sequential exposure to various types of situations (and debriefings) over the course of several days i.e. 6 cases per day. Is that the approach used in flight simulation training or is a lot of time devoted to normal, routine flight as ‘filler’?
The simulators cost about US$20m each and are in use 24 hours per day (maintenance is conducted between 11 pm and 3 am). So airlines only buy sufficient simulators to meet the training and checking requirements.
The result of this setup is that for my airline, we are checked-trained 4 times per year in the simulator. Each of the 4 simulator sessions consists of a 45 minute briefing, followed by 4 hours in the simulator then a one hour debrief.
For operational pilots, the simulator is designed, programmed and used to practice cyclical training sequences (ie Go Arounds, Rejected Takeoffs), non normal and emergency procedures.
I have never been in a simulator sessions where everything worked perfectly!
Kind Regards Rich
Dear Captain de Crespigny,
I am really impressed the amazing story of QF32.
I am interested the ethical issues and ethical decision making of the crew on board. Therefore, I would like to ask:
1. Was the crew making decision under bounded rationality OR it was a rational decision making?
2. During the incident, whether the crew received the support or guidance from the maintenance team on the ground?
Thank you for your kind attention.
1. Nearly all the decisions were NOT bounded rational decisions. Most of the decisions were based on all available information in regards to the problem, the options and solutions, especially the decision of how to deplane the aircraft. In these cases we mined the pilots minds for every bit of detailed knowledge and experience, taking in some cases extended time to reach the optimal solution. This process is the most robust and resilient – particularly for Black Swan events. I recommend this link to The Empirical Skeptic
The few bounded rational decisions were for time limited decisions, such as the inverting of the logic, the “Armstrong Spiral” and complex flight control checks.
2. Both SatCom links were cut to the outside world. So we had no communications with any group other than Air Traffic Control whilst we were in the air.
Dear Captain Richard,
Hello and Good Afternoon!
I have seen the QF32 Investigation video a couple of times and I would like to dedicate the following comments to you:
1. You have proved in aviation that humans can bypass computers, and that our brains can be more faster and logical than computers.
2. The QF32 Flight Crew demonstrated beautifully the sense of promptness, corrective actions, and most importantly the sense of professionalism, which very few pilots can do these days.
3. Ancient studies show that only 10% of the people run this world, due to their good down to earth and helping nature, and their ability to see the world as one with no discrimination on any grounds.
I am more junior and less experienced than you and your Crew Colleagues (QF32) but I dedicated these three great qualities to you all as the above fits you guys 100%.
Lastly your interview with Eve Cogan, was enormous. The beauty of the interview was in the spirit and dedication of the young girl to read your book then ask the great questions for which she got another set of beautiful replies from you.
I hope one day that I see an airport named “Richard Champion de Crespigny Intl Airport”,
Lots of Salutation Captain..
Keep in Touch!
Wish to meet you someday!
Thank you for your kind comments. On behalf of the pilots, cabin crew and the passengers, I gratefully accept your thanks for the event that shows how well trained and experienced teams can work together calmly to survive the unthinkable event.
Like you, I too am so very proud of all the teams that worked together to return 469 people home to their loved ones.
Best wishes and safe travels Victor,
I found this interesting study on the interaction of man-machine entitled:
“AIRLINE PILOTS’ PERCEPTIONS OF ADVANCED FLIGHT DECK AUTOMATION”
Click to access dissertation.pdf
Dear Captain de Crespigny,
Thank you for educating an aviation ignoramus.
Over the last month, we have witnessed the mystery (and what appears to be the tragedy) of MH370.
I try to interpret the news and the unfolding story through your skeptical eyes. Whilst I am as uninformed as the rest of the public, I note certain crew actions that appear logical in the circumstances: a return to an airstrip that could take the jet, and the possible height changes.
I feel sorry for the pilots who are being judged before the evidence is in. While I still don’t have anywhere near enough knowledge to make an informed judgement, I nevertheless feel better informed having read your book.
I am well aware that you don’t like the term ‘hero’ but no matter what, you save hundreds and hundreds of lives!
You are the star of the aviation!
QF32 is the best book I ever read!
From a Human Factors perspective, you are certainly an elite ranked pilot. But I do have to wonder, you are a former fighter pilot and you used those skills and experience to land the plane safely. However if you were trained differently, would the outcome have been the same?
I am also struggling with another issue. This September is my 13th birthday and I will be joining the Air Cadets in Brighton. My dream is to be an RAF pilot and after I retire from the Service, I want to be a pilot for an airline. However I think that I have bad eyesight. Is it possible for me to reach my goal and find my true calling without having it ruined by my eyesight?
It would be a great help and privilege to be helped by a great pilot such as you.
Thanks for the kind comments Patti,
Your concerns about your eyesight are not uncommon. Please read my blog “Aviation Pathways” particularly paragragh 11.
Best wishes for a great career! Rich
Speaking to an ex-RAAF member who trains for these scenarios on a regular basis, I think you hit the nail on the head. From speaking to him, what can be gleaned from formal reports on crash investigations and internet aviation forums, there is the suggestion that some pilots have not sufficiently developed their manual skills and airmanship to fly modern-day automated planes in non-normal situations. There are various reasons for this. Technological advances that have decreased the pilot’s involvement, time and resources to train and practise and the economic imperative of airlines to run a profitable business in an increasingly competitive market.
What is notable, is not the way in which Capt.de Crespigny handled this emergency (which is nonetheless impressive because of its rarity), but that there are possibly commercial pilots who would be befuddled by the situation (cf. Air France Flight 447).
Things that stood out to me about Richard,
1) He thoroughly understood the theoretical aspects of his plane’s control systems (including its automation)
2) He responded to the ‘startle effect of the failure appropriately – ‘no fast hands in the cockpit’
3) He maintained situational awareness of his flight path even as events dynamically unfolded
4) He focussed on the fundamental aviator’s dictum – ‘aviate, navigate, communicate’
5) He was not distracted by the cognitive overload of the ECAM system and did not blindly follow its recommendations if they contradicted first-principles (worthy of a discussion in itself)
6) He managed his crew effectively and delegated tasks appropriately (with the luxury of additional experience personnel in his cockpit)
Whilst these factors would seem to be essential to that of the person in command of a plane, it suggests that there is a degree of variability across the industry in training, preparation and motivation to deal with such extreme situations. Overall commercial flying is one of the safest means of transport (made safer by technological advances) but occasionally the ‘perfect storm’ of pilot inexperience/complacency, an unusual situation and poor airmanship leads to an avoidable disaster.
Thankfully, no lives were lost in this incident. But this ‘near-miss’ should hopefully prompt the industry to carefully consider how they would adequately prepare themselves if such events occur in the future.
Dear Captain de Crespigny,
I have just read your amazing QF32 story. I’m not an avid reader – only read novels at school because I had to – so if I read anything, it’s the ‘real’ stories like yours. It took me 3 days to read QF32 (a record for me) – it was such a compelling and extremely interesting ‘read’.
I really liked the way you brought the story together. I bought the book having recently seen the ‘Air Crash Investigations’ version of the incident and as only so much can be told in a TV show like that, I felt the need to read your book.
I know thousands of people have said it all before but now (even nearly 4 years on), I wanted to add my simple ‘thankyou’ to you and your team for saving 469 lives that day – an extraordinary feat of flying, first-rate understanding the big jet, outstanding teamwork and overall exceptional leadership.
I’ve been on the magnificent Qantas A380 a few times now – all wonderful experiences no matter which part of the jet you are seated – I don’t know if you are still flying but it would be another wonderful experience if I heard you were in the front seat.
Best wishes to you, your team that day and everyone else involved.
Regards, Cheryl Redenbach, Canberra
Thank you for your kind words. I am pleased that you enjoyed my story and especially pleased that you thanked the other pilots and cabin crew. I will pass on your thoughts to them all.
Please send a message to me in the cockpit if you ever hear me over the intercom on a future flight. I’d love to show you the flight deck.
Best Regards, Rich
Dear Captain de Crespigny,
First of all congratulations for your great book QF32!
I have some questions about the transfer of brand new aircraft:
– How does it feel to bring a brand new aircraft to a new location?
– Does the crew 100% trust the performance of a brand new aircraft?
– Is the crew a little bit nervous on that flight?
– Are there special instructions or setups for a flight with a brand new aircraft?
Thanks Thomas for your kind words. Here are my answers to your questions in your order:
– It’s an honour, pleasure and thrill to deliver a new aircraft to the airline. I was fortunate in being involved in delivering two aircraft:
VH-OQD “Fergus McMaster”, SIN-SYD on 24 Aug 2009 (see photo above); and VH-OQK “John and Reginald Duigan” TLS-SIN in 2012.
– No I did not trust the performance on the delivery flights. An empirical skeptic never trusts any assumption in the absence of facts. Airbus had rigorously checked the aircraft to perform the the airline’s requirements, however I also needed proof that the aircraft operated in accordance with the performance tables when engaged in normal airline operations. The airline could only verify the true performance of the aircraft after it completed it’s first two delivery sectors. So I ensured that we carried an additional 5% fuel over the minimum operations requirements to cover “other contingencies”. We carried a specialist company performance engineer on those delivery sectors who validated the aircraft’s performance met the required standards.
– No the crew were not nervous on the flight – but you have to expect the unexpected. The A380 consists of 4,000,000 parts, so we were very inquisitive and alert for the signs of any irregularities. The company delivery team in Toulouse had done a fantastic job in readying our aircraft for delivery. They are assisted by the Airbus delivery team that is also responsible to ensure that the aircraft is in 100% perfect condition when the pilots accepted the aircraft. I sensed an emotional atmosphere amongst the Airbus engineers as they lined up in a perfect military row to wave goodbye to us as we taxied away from the terminal for our departure.
– The new aircraft is treated just the same as any other aircraft once it enters service in the airline. This should not be surprising as the fledgling aircraft was thoroughly checked by flight test pilots, flight test engineers, delivery engineers, acceptance pilots, acceptance engineers and then performance engineers before it first arrived in Sydney. On arriving in Sydney, the new aircraft then has to spend a few days being fitted with customer service and safety equipment and again, proven safe for passenger flight.
One last question.
I note that Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot of US Airways Flight 1549 who landed on the Hudson River after double engine failure from a bird strike also had previously military experience. The pattern emerging here suggests that those with such a background are the ones most likely to ‘pull the rabbit out of the hat’ in such situations.
In your book, you mentioned a couple concepts i.e. an Armstrong Spiral, controllability checks at altitude – the latter of which you employed on final approach. You indicated these are are considered as a range of skills covered in military training but are not routinely considered elsewhere. Do you believe that such skills ought to be a mandatory part of commercial pilot training ?
Derek, pilots are taught basic forced landing patterns as part of their initial training. The HAC is a much more complex manoeuvre to design.
I think that the topic of “flight control checks” is too complex to be taught during initial flight training. Indeed, I think that there is insufficient information published to help pilots conduct a proper flight control check: what to test for, how to determine if the test passes or fails (so you don’t lose control) and then what to change as a consequence if the check fails.
Airline manufacturers publish scant information on the subject of flight control checks. Boeing documents “Damage Assessment”. Airbus documents now include “Handling the Aircraft in the case of Severe Damage”. Both procedures are very basic and provide little consideration for control law behaviours (ie spoilers), control saturation on FBW aircraft and reconfiguration. In the absence of industry guidance (manufacturers, safety authorities, airlines) it rests again on the skills of the pilot to gain the knowledge of aircraft flight controls, aerodynamics and the certification processes. The pilot must then possess the airmanship to anticipate control problems and then to devise a procedure to establish the safe flight and landing parameters for the aerodynamically handicapped aircraft.
To my knowledge, there was only one pilot who thought through all these these processes then shared his ideas for others to benefit. Although I met Captain Eddie Foo of Singapore Airlines after my QF32 incident, I quickly identified him as a remarkable pilot and mentor. The industry needs more “Eddies”. This is why I acknowledged Eddie at QF32 page 354.
Food for thought:
– El Al Flight 1862, 4th October 1992.
– XL Airways Germany, D-AXLA, 27 November 2008
I just finished reading your riveting account of QF32.
It seemed one of the most challenging tasks for your crew was to address the huge volume of ECAM data particularly in resolving conflicting messages or recommendations that it was making. The density and intrusiveness of the data was potentially distracting and confusing for already a task-saturated pilot and crew and possibly precipitate an erroneous decision.
Although you suggest that ‘filtering’ does occur, I was wondering if ECAM (as currently designed) is more accurate when addressing single-systems failure rather than with the interdependencies of multi-systems failure. With the latter, it seemed ECAM was more prone to getting ‘confused’ and begin to create spurious interpretations or solutions to the actual faults. Therefore, the decision-making to accept or ignore this occupies valuable brain space rather than one to purely dwell on the verifiable functioning components of ‘what was working’.
ECAM is just a computer program acting on sensors to detect problems and a database of checklist solutions. Nothing more – nothing less.
By definition, computers will never resolve Black Swan events (the unknown unknowns).
So when the Black Swan event occurs, its up to the knowledge and experience of well trained crews that will nurse and assist the aircraft and passengers home.
Which is my point.
In a ‘Black Swan’ or catastrophic event, ECAM either needs to stand down or significantly modify its reports so it doesn’t get in the way of the business of the flight crew doing their own evaluation and fly the plane.
It seems such systems are specifically designed for commercial flight where complex faults are a rare event. Having all those sensors are helpful to pick up the early development of problems in a relatively stable situation but the data overload is a liability when they are all alarming in a highly dynamic one.
Richard> Which again is my point. By definition you cannot predict the Black Swan event, so you cannot plan or design ECAM logic for it! What the test pilots and I discussed after the QF32 event, was the concept of a “LAND ASAP” button, that “inverts the logic” the way I did on QF32.
This author seems to write with some degree of insight about design factors and human error.
QF32 is a very well written book.
I have flown a number of large aircraft, and my only comments are:
(1) With the way Airbus handles emergencies (ECAM actions and crew work allocation) the hardest working person in the crew was Matt Hicks, and I feel you could have heaped even more praise on him.
(2) When I read on page 229 that Dave and Harry came up with an approach speed of 145 knots, my immediate reaction was that it could not be possible – it was far too slow. (I later read on page 346 that Vapp at max landing weight is 143 kts. How could two Captains, experienced on type possibly come up with a speed like that especially with 60% less lift devices -Slats, ailerons (page305) AND 40 tons overweight !!!
I gave as much praise as practically possible to Matt, Mark, Dave and Harry. I apologise to Matt, Mark, Dave and Harry if there is any impression that I had not thanked them sufficiently.
You miss a key airmanship concept if you deduce that some of the QF32 team members were more busy than others. We all worked at our highest potential to accomplish our tasks.
An airline crew is not a committee. Matt’s job was to action ECAM. My job as pilot in command was to fly the plane, maintain clear situation awareness, and to exercise the authority of my command to ensure my responsibility to ensure the safety of the passengers, crew and the aircraft. Dave’s, Harry’s and Mark’s job was to monitor Matt and me and to provide support as required.
I disagree about your inference re Dave and Harry.
Please understand that ego is the anathema to teamwork. Well formed teams comprise members who understand their positions in the team, their responsibilities, their authority and work together with the sole goal to achieve the required outcome. Team members are allocated roles and tasks to contribute to this end.
Team success is measured by the outcome, not the internal thoughts, debates or efforts. We all make mistakes – it’s the team’s responsibility to detect then correct the errors.
Success is a Team success. Failure belongs to the leader. That’s the price for being a leader!
I am very proud of every crew member in the QF32 cockpit (and the cabin). We pooled our knowledge, training, experience and worked seamlessly together to survive a Black Swan event.
The ATSB report concluded that we functioned as a competent team.
Your comments about teamwork: very well said,
I note that 100 years ago (4 Mar 1914), among those present at the annual dinner of the Royal Aero Club, was Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny, Bart. (documented at http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1914/1914%20-%200249.html). He would have heard the extensive remarks of the First Sea Lord, W.S. Churchill.
Thought if you were unaware, it’d interest you.
Frank Van Haste
Richard, I’m flying from Coffs Harbour to Sydney in a couple of weeks with QantasLink. I know it’s a Dash-8 Q400 and not as big or sexy as the A380-800, but any chance you could fly PIC that flight? I’d feel much safer with the best pilot in the world at the controls! Of course, I know you can’t do that, but still…
Dear Capt. Champion de Crespigny
Greetings from North Queensland! I just finished reading your book “QF32” (yes, I know its nearly 12.30am but despite having lectures tomorrow I had to read the last few chapters!).
Thank you for writing the book and sharing your experiences. The story you outline throughout the book is incredible, and very inspiring.
I have one burning question though regarding the last sentence before the appendix – “I didn’t pass.” I read all the way to the back cover in the hope of finding what happened after that – are you still flying? How did you fail? I couldn’t believe it! I hope everything went well afterwards. I really don’t mean for this to be a rude or insensitive question; I hope you didn’t lose your job and everything eventually went back to as normal as it could after such an event .
Your recount of the events, the professionalism of the crew and even your account of your life before QANTAS were very interesting and motivational. Thank you for an excellent read, I will remember many of the lessons you outlined.
I can certainly relate to your first experience of a spin! Mine was in an old IS-28 glider, and I can vividly remember the awful shuddering of the airframe, then the horizon simply twisting and inverting itself before my eyes, before being replaced with the houses and farms below.. and then the sound of my instructor’s voice 10 seconds later – “Your turn!”.
I do hope to meet you one day if we happen to be in the same area.
Thank you again and kind regards,
Dear Andre, Thank you for your kind words. I am indeed still flying, in fact I just returned home yesterday from a fantastic flight to Hong Kong.
I loved your story about your spinning training. It’s easy to write and talk about a spin and discuss the motion in three dimensions. However it’s humbling to experience the physical forces, vibrations and of course, your emotions.
All pilots need to experience this so that they appreciate flight and so that they don’t panic if/when they inadvertently find themselves in similar positions later in their careers.
Kind Regards, Rich
I’ve just read QF32 on my most recent trip to Europe, landing yesterday.
This is also the first book I’ve read in 15 years! I thoroughly enjoyed both the technical and personal perspectives.
I’m Professor of Medical Physics at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane and I am extremely fortunate, as you mention, to have a career that is also my hobby. I develop novel ultrasound medical systems, visiting European research collaborators every three months; always flying Qantas!
I hope our paths will cross sometime in the future.
Very Best Wishes
I have been reading your QF32 book. It is pretty good.
I flew QF11 ‘SYD to LAX’ on Airbus A380-800 VH-OQI (named after David Warren who invented the black box recorder) on 9th June 2012. That was the first time I flew overseas EVER!!! On 30th June 2012 I flew on the Boeing 747-400 VH-OJM ‘City of Gosford’. It was a great flying experience with Qantas.
After my brother’s and my trip to America, I found myself wondering ‘I wonder which Qantas regos did our flights. So I tracked them on Flight Radar. I found myself interested in the Qantas A380 fleet, Boeing 747-400, including VH-OJA that flew LHR-SYD non stop nearly 25 years ago. Now I look on flight radar and wonder ‘OK, who’s flying QF11 today, Who’s flying QF1, etc.
Then I read your book QF32 and found it pretty interesting. I would be honoured if one day I flew on (A380) VH-OQA and (747) VH-OJA (time could be running out)
I have since flew to Europe with my family on Emirates A380s A6-EDE, A6-EDU and A6-EEK. I saw VH-OQK which you delivered TLS-SIN when I went planespotting back in January 2015. I love the A380. I wouldn’t mind seeing Qantas buying more A380s. Now I’ve flown on 1 X QF A380 and 3 X EK A380s. I hope to fly on two more Qantas a380s to be even with EK.
Since then I flew on A6-EEF, A6-EDT and VH-OQL. Phyllis Arnott. I wouldn’t mind achieving the goal of flying on ALL TWELVE QF A380s. That’s OQA thru to OQL.
Thanks for writing the book…amazing stuff and congratulations on such an amazing job. Are you still flying the A380?
I suppose that if one doesn’t complete the route that one is being checked on then a pass can not be given?
Best wishes…….Anthony Fry
I read QF32 recently after it was recommended to me by an acquaintance of mine who is a commercial pilot and proudly showed off to me a photograph of himself with you in the left seat of an A380.
No sooner had this fellow recommended your book, it was downloading onto my iPhone and I read it from there.
Pity I can’t get an autographed copy of an iBook!
After I read such books I like to spend some time reflecting on the contents, re-reading parts, talking about it with others etc. Here is one of my reflections.
“QF32” spoke to me as a parent. I have 2 girls, one of which is about to enter high school. It highlights the importance I suppose of having key people in your life to help you on your journey, ie, provide direction, correction, encouragement. Naturally my wife and I want to be these people however there will be, there has to be others, and I want to encourage and facilitate that as best I can and as often as I can, just as your parents did (from what I read in “QF32”.)
Everyone wants the best for their children, however I am determined to play an active part in that, and your book reinforced to me how critical that is.
Motivating our younger generations is so important if they are to reach their true potential. I am glad that my book has helped to reinforce these processes in your family’s minds.
I’d also like to push the QF32 concepts further and suggest that all of us need the watchful, compassionate and considerate eye of a mentor who can offer a refreshing and remote perspective to ensure we all “fly straight”, “see the trees” and make the most of life’s opportunities.
Best wishes to you and your wonderful girls for rewarding, fulfilling and passionate lives.
First of all I want to congratulate you for what you did and still do. The way you and the team managed the Flight QF 32 incident is absolutely unbelievable!
I am passionate about airplanes and this story has left me totally breathless. Just as flight US Airways 1549 did. I’ve followed the A380 since its early stage developpments until now. Last year, I watched the 4 Corners show about Flight QF32 and that got me really interested.
Last spring, while looking at the shelves of a Bookstore I saw and discovered your book. Immediately that became a must have, and I left the store literally amazed! That was gonna be my summer 2013 read on the beach in Thaïland. I have to say the wait was really hard.
Holidays started once aboard the plane, on the ZRH – SIN leg. We unfortunately didn’t fly Qantas as there are no routes from Switzerland. We boarded on an A380 (from Singapore Airlines). As holidays had begun, I could start reading.
W O W ! What an amazing story! There is so much to learn from your book! Obviously about airplanes but also about life and how to be a good human being. This second aspect is very touching and rare. So rare that it is very valuable.
However, the version of the book I have acquired is the French one (wanted the bookshop to order the English one but they couldn’t find it). And unfortunately there are quite many translation issues as the sense of some paragraphs seems to be in contradictions to the rest of the book.
The end of the book left be “angry” as it said that you failed your Route Check.
This end left me very suspicious and made me become very curious. That’s the way I discovered your blog, simply by having been left angry with the end of the book, looking up for your name on Google from a sunlounger in Thailand willing to find the truth.
Since then, I have been a passive reader of your blog, which is amazing by the way. The truth that you’re still flying has been found, meaning you couldn’t have failed that Route Check. Who could ever think that such an amazing and heroic story could be a Route Check failure?!
I have to agree that the term hero, which you don’t like, is not appropriate. What you are is a shining star, a model everyone should follow. There’s been no luck on Nov. 4 2010, but lots of hard work and training coming together allowing a happy end.
I definitely dream to fly one day on VH-OQA Nancy Bird Walton, and be your passenger.
Next summer read is gonna be the ENGLISH version of QF 32.
Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, I wanna thank you again.
Silvio from Switzerland
Thank you for your extreme kindness. I find it very embarrassing to read words such as these leveled at me, but accept and welcome them on behalf of the pilots, cabin crew, passengers and others who joined into the team to help us survive this Black Swan event.
Merry Christmas and safe flying to you and your family.
Best Regards Rich
I’ve just finished reading your story on QF32.
“QF32” has to be one of the most challenging situations ever faced by an airline crew and your in depth technical, factual explanation and complete personal disclosure are truly inspiring.
Thank you for representing the pilot profession in the way in which you have. You, the key elements of your team, as well as the likes of Sully Sullenberger are modern day role models and your story has far reaching effects.
Just saying thank you, I look forward to the publishing of your technical book.
South African Airways, Airbus FO
Dear David, Thank you for your very kind words. As a professional aviator, you know how hard we all work to maintain the degree of professionalism needed to keep these modern big jets aloft. So I am also proud of your efforts that have kept our combined passengers safe. Merry Christmas and safe flying, Rich
First up I have read QF32 and would have to say it was one of the most interesting and inspiring books that I have ever read.
“QF32” ultimately put me on track to attain my General Aviation Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL), and this is a decision that I certainly don’t regret. This challenge is one of the most rewarding things I have ever undertaken.
That aside, I have a question regarding delta wing design that has been puzzling me for a while, and seeing you are an ex Mirage III pilot I thought you would be the best person to ask. How does a delta winged aircraft pitch down without increasing lift? Without canards it would seem the design is almost uncontrollable!
Your insight would be greatly appreciated!
Kind regards, Paul Grimmond.
Hi Paul, Thanks for your kind words.
Delta winged aircraft like the Mirage used elevons (combining the functions of ailerons with the elevators).
Elevons are very inefficient at low speed on stable aircraft. When rotating to take off, the elevons deflect up, to create a pitching moment. The wing’s coefficient of lift (Cl) reduces when the elevons deflects upwards, requiring the Mirage to have higher takeoff (and landing) speeds than conventional winged aircraft.
Canards improve the Delta wing’s low speed performance. For example, the Kfir is a copy of the Mirage 5 fighter. However the Israelis integrated canards to improve the Kfir’s slow speed performance. Canards enabled the takeoff and landing distances to be reduced by about 30%.
The French-English Concorde also had elevons and the associated high takeoff and landing speeds. The Russians copied the Concorde designs when they designed their TU-44 (“Concordski”). The TU-144 also introduced canards to improve takeoff and landing performance.
Although newer aircraft still incorporate conventional wings with counter-lifting tail planes, the smarter FBW aircraft (A380 & B787) now have reduced stability margins. In fact the A380 airframe is unstable in some conditions – requiring the FBW software to control-filter pilot inputs.
The A380’s Trim Drag (drag from tail plane lift) is down to a remarkable 0.5% (QF32 page 347) of total drag, probably one sixth the drag of its competitors. This achievement comes from the aircraft being designed with (Airbus) “relaxed stability”, (I read “partial instability”).
Current FBW fighter aircraft are all designed to be unstable, reducing tail plane forces, and improving performance.
As far as I can read, throughout the entire thread of comments, you have never answered the question of why the failed check ride. You made a point to mention it.
People want to know. Please explain.
Dear Captain de Crespigny,
Just a quick word, I was one of your passengers on that “eventful” flight and sat opposite the damaged wing.
I have read the book but nothing compares to the actual reality of sitting through the real life experience, firstly of the initial explosion and then watching your cabin and flight crew trying to grasp and understand what had just happened and what if any was the course of action that should follow such a calamitous event.
Needless to say we were all most impressed and relaxed by the seemingly objective and professional manner in which the whole situation was handled.
It is an experience I can never forget.
Thank you for your kind thoughts. I will pass them on to the other crew members.
Thank you also for contacting me. I am planning a function to get the passengers together for “debrief” sessions in key cities around the world, and so I am keen to make contact all passengers.
Kind Regards and safe flying
I happen to live next to a QANTAS 747 pilot who 3 weeks ago surmised that the MH370 mystery was most probably a case of “mentally unbalanced” member on the flight crew with serious psychological issues on his mind. This seems to be the current hypothesis. Given that there have not been any clues yet regarding the cause or fate of the incident what are your thoughts?
My views on MH370 are very clear. I do not know what happened.
We need an agency to take responsibility for and to provide full and open disclosure of trusted data before we can take a guess at valid hypotheses. Without this we will have many wild goose chases.
Please also view:
The Golden Hour
Engrossing book. I also neglected a thesis to read it. I have a couple of questions.
You appeared to have relied on your RAAF military defence experience in working out the best way to approach and land. If you’d only had simulator training might the outcome have been different? I’m thinking in particular of running through control checks as well as the short runway experience in Caribous.
Also this question was asked above and I couldn’t find a response. Why did you fail your route check? Or was that a joke?
I am sorry that my book distracted you from your thesis, though your questions are very relevant if your thesis is discussing the theory of Deliberate Practice.
Simulator time by itself is only a small part of a professional pilot’s skill set. Confidence comes from Training and Experience. Simulator sessions are provided as part of Training programs, but simulators do not provide Experience that helps “bullet proof” the pilots and help them to expect the unexpected.
So my time in the RAAF, the hard work, the hard knocks, occasionally pushing the limits in varied conditions – all these contributed to my tool box of Experience that helped us keep control and not get startled when we were faced with the unthinkable event.
Great book and you have had a good time flying.
The wearing of raincoats in Caribous was I recall compulsory in New Guinea. Most of the landings scared the beejesus out of me but the Air Force pilots just thought it was all pretty normal. The RAAF cats were a different breed, and I wonder how many others on your A380 knew that the wing was essentially dead, the fuel system was gone, that you had little or no thrust control over 2 engines, a flight control system that was reporting multiple failures would be as cool as you. As you said it was a one shot landing.
I think you and Neil Armstrong are a matched pair in regard to landings.
Mate a really good read, and now that I know you are still flying and enjoying it I am quite glad for you. Came back with Qantas from Changi in a A380 recently and quite good as usual.
Qantas is a cut above the rest.
Hope you are paying attention to chasing your wife around the ski slopes and the beach somewhere and not working too much.
Dear Captain de Crespigny,
I so enjoyed reading QF32 and in addition to admiring your literary prowess would like to hand over a few further bouquets.
First of all, your magnificent airmanship in overcoming the daunting number of problems which beset your aircraft.
Next, your loyalty and fairness to both Airbus and Rolls Royce.It is reassuring to have your endorsement that both organisations supply a fine product, as indeed do Boeing and GE.
Most of all I greatly admire your leadership and sense of responsibility to your passengers and crew. In my opinion that is what being the Captain of an aircraft (or ship) is being all about.
In summary,well done, you are an inspiration to us all. I would like to think that if I am ever in a situation where everything goes pear-shaped to such an extent then I have someone such as yourself in charge.
I read the book a while ago and have enjoyed your interview on “conversations with Richard Fidler”.
The question I been left with is why did you fail the route check? In my mind you were under worst circumstances but delivered the best result. How could they have failed you?
Thank you Richard, I was extremely moved by your book. I found it very assuring to me personally – mainly though because I’m an IT professional who always wants to “learn things from the ground up”. There’s not a huge number of people who do that, and to hear that this is how you also learn systems really made me feel good, knowing that your dedication to understanding things in such detail directly helped you deal with a very complex situation.
Not that I expect my skills will ever save anyone’s life, mind you.
I started programming computers back in the punched paper card (University) days, then migrated to DOS & Windows. I wrote large applications in Clipper then Delphi where the complex logic had to be disassembled down to basic data structures and functions-procedures. So pilots and software developers definitely have similar roots in starting simple and then working up to the complex. The lessons learned from motorbikes and software development can be ported to other professions.
I am glad you enjoyed the book and I am proud to continue kinship with IT professionals.
I read your book and it was great!
I am interested in aviation, especially commercial airliners and I sometimes fly the Qantas A380 (Charles Kingsford Smith) in FSX :).
I really do hope you can come to our school here in Shanghai (Yew Chung International School of Shanghai) to have a talk about motivation, QF32 aviation and so on, just like what you did at Canberra Grammar School!
I have just finished reading ‘QF32’ and I could not put it down (much to the detriment of my thesis writing)!
May I first begin by expressing my admiration for what you and your crew did on that day.
Secondly I must commend you and everyone on a remarkable display of teamwork and skill. There is no doubt that the combined experience of all of you, and the measured way that you and your team conducted yourselves was instrumental in the success of you being able to land the crippled A380 despite the series of failures that happened.
I remember being at work 2 years ago and seeing those images of the stricken ‘Nancy-Bird Walton’ on the news, not having any idea the degree of failures that occurred. Even as I watched the “Four Corners” documentary, I don’t think that programme really conveyed the problems that occurred like the book did. I could not believe that you experienced another engine failure the day after that ordeal!
Although I do not have a background in aviation (I am a doctor training in Obstetrics and Gynecology), you conveyed the gravity and complexity of those failures very eloquently and made it possible for me to comprehend the severe technical challenges on that day. Medicine is more commonly trying to emulate pilots’ training with respect to simulator training and also the importance of human factors in situations of crisis but we have still a lot to learn from your profession.
I have always loved flying which probably stems from being a very young girl when my parents would take us to Shannon airport, in Ireland to watch the various different types of planes depart and land and that fascination has never left me. I really enjoy watching documentaries on the airline industry and I am really fascinated by the engineering behind it all.
Although some of my travelling has brought be to Asia and the US, I have yet to experience flying in the A380 and I really hope to do so soon. It must be such an amazing experience to fly them.
It looks like my career will bring me to Austrailia for further training and I look forward to flying with Qantas. I really hope to be fortunate enough to be one of your passengers in the near future!
Wishing you every success in the future
Thank you for your very kind thoughts.
We both share a fascination and respect for each other’s profession and so I find myself on a similar (yet inverted) quest to yours, to find out how aviation can improve from the lessons learned in medicine.
If you are near Canberra, Australia on the 29th August, then come along to the conference of the Australian College of Health Care Executives where I will be part of a triangular table talk with a (world respected) doctor and US Hospital CEO.
Government and corporate governance, cultures, safety standards, human factors and skills should never be taken for granted in our hospitals and aircraft. These highly tuned doctrine, practices and human attributes have developed over more than one hundred years, and we are caretakers tasked to ensure that the excellence from our past generations is not just maintained, but also improved. We can always do better, we must do better, and this is the challenge that motivates us to continue our endless search for excellence.
Good luck with your thesis! Best Regards. Rich
In re: the application of aviation’s “lessons learned” to the medical profession, have you made the acquaintance of Col. Tony Kern? He’s a retired USAF pilot (Instructor Pilot in B-1’s), the author of Redefining Airmanship (which I recommend highly), and Principal at Convergent Performance, a consultancy based in Colorado, where he has a very active program focused on the transfer of aviation principles and best practices to healthcare. I believe you and he have many common interests as well as the power to make a difference.
Disclaimer: I have no connection with Col. Kern or his programs; I just respect his work immensely, as I do yours.
Thank you for your speedy reply. I absolutely agree with the comments you have made.
Thank you for the information on the upcoming conference also! The programme looks very good!
I remembered an article published in the British Medical Journal on the 14th of January 2011 (if you want to cite it as BMJ 2011;342:c7310) which will be of interest to you. It was an argument for and against how realistic translating ideas from aviation to patient safety is. That journal and the American Journal of Surgery to name but a few have a lot of good articles and published studies that may be of interest to you. Some go as far back as the 80’s. You may be familiar with the literature surrounding this topic already but just in case not!
I think your book is a great read.
It will help a young friend who has just read it. He is currently studying for ATPL subjects while training for his CPL flight test. He now believes me when I told him that he needs to study really hard!
Of course I do not know all that went on in the flight deck but as an airline flight examiner for over 25 yrs I don’t think I would have failed your line check.
I hope you still have a job.
I was thrilled to receive as an early Father’s Day gift from my son, a copy of ‘QF32’! I’ve spent every spare moment of the past two days devouring it. What a gripping tale, told with such crystalline clarity. All of the accolades are richly deserved!
I feel it’s interesting to compare your Black Swan event with Capt. Sullenberger’s, especially in terms of their effects and after-effects as you so generously describe. Sully’s event occupied an intense quarter-hour or so (including the evac), while yours stretched on for hours (and seemed at the time, I’m sure, eternal).
I wonder if, in your conversations with Sully, he’s mentioned ‘aftershocks’? I haven’t heard any discussed and I hypothesize that perhaps the severity of post-crisis effects are strongly functions of both the intensity and the duration of the crisis.
As another case in point, the legendary Capt. Al Haynes (UA232), in his brilliant presentation, talks about years of effects that would be regarded today as the result of post-crisis stress. He, like you, had a long-duration crisis.
Thank you for sharing your experiences. You offer many valuable lessons, even for a Cessna driver like me.
Oh, one other thing I wondered about. Did you have any problem getting reimbursed for the bar bill?
Frank Van Haste
Dear Frank. Thank you for your kind thoughts.
I detailed in QF32 my experiences with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) to help others who might have experienced worse incidents than me, and who as a consequence would suffer significant PTS. The public’s help to those who suffer PTS is often in the form of comments such as “build a bridge and get over it”, and “others have been there – so toughen up”. These responses are not just wrong, but also very damaging to the sufferer, who may as a consequence never be treated for nor recover from PTS for that incident.
Little did I know that after QF32 went to print, that the second most asked question about my book and QF32 would be a question about PTS! Also, I was surprised to discover that half of the people who I write about in my book as being role models and superlative pilots for their handling of specific incidents, contacted me after reading my book to tell me that they were suffering PTS. I had not expected that PTS was so widespread in the pilot community!
You have reminded me that I have to finish my 80% finished article about PTS and publish it on this web site. I wrote the article many months ago, but then forgot about it in the rush of general life.
I’ll get the article out asap.
I have had many discussions with Sully, though I do not remember discussing PTS. As a general rule, since PTS is such a deeply personal subject, I will not discuss a person’s response to PTS without their prior permission.
Oh, and regarding your last question – My company fully reimbursed the $4,000 bar bill without any hesitation nor question.
Reflecting back to that night, when I authorised that barman for unlimited expenditure over that bar so that I could debrief and calm the crews, my decision came instinctively from my inner core, my values and beliefs as a sign of respect, admiration and dignity for the teams. I had a personal, physical and moral responsibility for all members of the crews, responsibility that is more encompassing then any company directive. I paid the $4,000 hotel bill the next day considering it as my money and perfectly well spent. I did not think about reimbursement until two or three months later.
Thanks for your support!
I fully agree with you about PTS.
As a pilot in the French Naval Aviation I crashed – ditched – in the North Atlantic, end of November 1973 and was eventually rescued by a fishing boat. Brought back ashore, I resumed flying the following day.
One or two months later I made a terrible fault in the air, flying with passengers, deliberately forgetting a bright red light which required an immediate landing in emergency. Back to my home base with this red light still lit I went and see my commanding officer and agreed with him to be grounded until I felt better.
Maybe one or two months later I met him again and we both agreed to have me back to service.
At that time there was no psychological help, we had to do without help.
Thank you for your honest account of PTS. From my research, I suggest that 50% of the pilots who experience great stress such as yours, also suffer unfortunate after-events as a consequence to the PTS.
You are not alone, and your disclosure here will help others to be prepared for, and to seek help to resolve their PTS.
Thanks for your prompt and thoughtful reply. I fully understand and endorse your decision no to discuss the response of others to PTS issues without prior permission. It is indeed a very private thing; so much more our respect to you for being so open about it.
Jean-Claude’s story seems to be about contemporaneous with Capt. Haynes’ event. We’ve all learned so much since then.
I look forward to your article on PTS. I’ve followed you on Twitter, so if you announce its availability there, I’ll be over here in a heartbeat.
Glad the company picked up the tab at the bar – somehow, tho’, I knew it wouldn’t really matter to you.
Frank you may subscribe to this site (top RHS of this page) to received notification of all postings. Rich
I am one of the Qantas family (staff) and enjoyed reading your book.
One question – you commented on how calm the passengers were considering what happened. Given how many A380 flights are long and usually travel overnight, passengers will try to sleep on a long period of the flight. I often wonder how ‘alert’ people are if there was a failure like this half way across the Pacific. I think more panic would set in with the passengers because people wouldn’t be fully alert. I can see one positive to the engine problems that happen on climb (just like the QF6 you were on) because everyone on board is generally alert and not tired, so they are able to react more rationally.
It is possible that there might be a correlation between a passengers alertness and panic, but I would have to research this before coming to any conclusions. There is anecdotal evidence showing where alert passengers (in other airlines) have panicked during initial climb.
I assert in QF32 that the absence of panic in the cabin was 100% due to the expert handling and management of the passengers by the cabin crew. The combination of the expert leadership by Customer Service Manager – Michael von Reth, and his confident and courageous cabin crew set the tone in the cabin. Michael and his crew calmed the excited passengers, looked for signs of panic, and stopped it before it developed or spread.
The training and experience produced dividends for there was no startle effect in the cabin!
I have just finished reading QF32. All I can say is WOW !!! It’s a fantastic book and I could NOT put it down.
By all accounts you and your whole crew did an outstanding job. It makes me proud and stress-free to get on board a Qantas flight, knowing there are VERY skilled people like yourself in command.
One question, like others have asked, I don’t understand why you did not pass your “check flight”. Are you able to elaborate further on this point?
I look forward boarding a Qantas A380 flight and to find you are the captain.
I came across this book by chance, and what a good find!
The first part of the book is autobiographical which really helps to understand how Richard and the crew managed to get the plane back on the ground without loss of life.
I’m not usually ‘into’ these types of technical books but this was gripping, I could hardly put the book down!
My Grandfather was a mechanic in the RAAF, so I have grown up hearing about stories of his ‘girls’ (planes) from a very young age.
I picked up your book and read it over this weekend. As an extremely nervous flyer in my mid-twenties (the feeling of turbulence, whilst my scientific mind tells me is not dangerous, sends me into a cold sweat while my heartbeat skyrockets), your book really set my mind at ease about air travel.
I have only flown a few times in my adult life voluntarily, but every time it has been with Qantas (and in fact, my first “adult” flight in late 2010 was Sydney – New York – not exactly short haul!), and the professionalism and quality of the staff has always impressed me and kept me calm.
It is stories like yours that reinforce my confidence in flying, and on my two most recent flights for work this year (Syd-Melb, business class), I got a chance to talk to both captains – one in flight (who was getting a cup of tea and seeing how we were going), and the other after landing who was seeing us off the plane.
I am hoping to do an international leg in the next year on the A380 – if you happen to be in command, there’s probably a few nervous flyers in economy who could use a smile and a reassurance that we’re not going to end up in the ocean – if you’ve got time to walk around, we must be flying steady and safe!
Thank you for taking the time to write QF32, and for inspiring those of us who are a bit nervous, to keep going to conquer our fears. You are an inspiration.
I must confess that I don’t read books unless they are some type of technical publications.
I’ve only read two novels in my life, those being:
– “The chant of Jimmy Blacksmith” (because I had to at school) and
– Les Patterson’s “The traveller’s tool” ..A technical journal?
I saw your book “QF32” at Tullamarine Airport but never bought it then. So I tried to get it in New York but had difficulty finding it.
I received it as a gift from my wife when we returned and I’m sure she wished she never got it for me as I was totally engulfed in it.
Your book was absolutely fantastic, it had me captivated and have recommended it to my friends. Most of whom ask me what I’m doing reading a book.
I travel by air quite frequently and it is a great assurance to see systems and training kick in as it did in the QF32 example.
Yourself & the whole crew did an amazing job under extreme duress and Qantas should be extremely proud of the way the situation was handled.
I still can’t figure out why you didn’t score a pass though??
Once again, thanks for a totally enjoyable read although I’m sure you’re hoping you’ll never have to write an episode two.
Richard, I’ve just read your book again and having done so, I’d like to ask one question. How did your meeting with Neil Armstrong come about? I see him in pictures with your family and your father. Did you know him prior to this incident? Also, have you ever met Capt. Sully from the Hudson River incident? I’m sure you two could share some incredible stories! Okay, that’s two questions.. sorry! (haha) Safe flying and Happy Easter!
Matthew, I wrote a back story about Neil Armstrong that I had planned to release last year, but I was too upset to release it after he passed away in September. I might release the story in September this year.
Here is a back story about a meeting with Sully Sullenberger.
Best Regards Rich
Richard, I will look forward to reading that back story when you feel the time is right to release it. Rest in peace, Neil.
Hey Rich, was that you flying the Qantas half of the Qantas/Emirates A380 formation display today. Looked fantastic!
No, I was not flying in the formation but I did bring that jet in from Los Angeles three hours before, with photos that prove the answer to PFTCT Question 5!
I was underneath the formation fly past on Sydney Harbour on board US NAVY.
That same big jet then left that afternoon for the first London flight via Dubai.
Thank you very much for the PFTCT prize!
I really enjoyed reading QF32, a great read and a fantastic bit of flying. With +/- 2 knots to play with, the experience landing Caribous on inadequate airfields would have been the only thing that gave you the confidence to know that you could do it.
I have a question. The photo of the technical log and the text on p292 state engine failure at “around 4000”, however the narrative states 7400 several times and the ATSB report says the initial failure occurred around 7000 (consistent with leveling out at 7400). Was the “4000” reference just a normal human error caused by stress and fatigue (and focusing on the SUSIN waypoint)? (YES INDEED IT WAS. THE SUSIN WAYPOINT WAS A REAL STRESS DURING THE TAKEOFF – THAT IS BEFORE …. RICH)
To the uninitiated it appears that the ECAMS were telling you an awful lot of useless information – the plane needed the “tell me what IS working” epiphany – for example it knew none of the fuel pumps were working, why didn’t it just say so! (NO AIRCRAFT CHECKLIST SYSTEMS ARE [CURRENTLY] DESIGNED TO DO AS YOU IMPLY)
Maybe one day the computers will be smart enough to work through more serious problems instead of trying to fix the unfixable (although you can imagine telling your plane to flare and you hear a voice saying “I can’t let you do that, Dave”).
It sounds as though the increased stall speed (due to wing & control surface damage) took everyone by surprise, it would be interesting to look at the flight data to see if it could have been predicted from the increased angle of attack earlier on. You mention the very nose high attitude on final approach (page 259), but the effect must have been present as soon as the damage occurred, although more subtle at a higher speed, and not so obvious when further away from ground.
There is surely a precise relationship between indicated airspeed, weight and angle of attack, a fairly simple program would be able to cross check those data, and with a little bit more effort might be able to predict the stall speed. (YES THERE IS A RELATIONSHIP AND THE FMS CONTINUALLY RUNS THIS CALC, WITH SO MUCH AUTHORITY THAT THE FMS CAN DISPLAY STALL CRITERIA INDEPENDENT OF THE FWCs and PRIMs). Newer acft will calculate and display IAS using your algorithms in case of pitot failures.)
Of course, it would be a bit of software that most pilots would never use, and there is the philosophical question that if you had +/-2kts between stalling and running off the runway, would you really want to know? (WE CONDUCTED CONTROL CHECKS – QED).
Great read. It gives confidence that flying in a large plane is a safe way to travel.
Thanks Richard for a fascinating account of that day.
I have flown Qantas numerous times over the past 20 years, & was amazed when I heard about the incident at the time in 2010.
I had to fly to NSW for work recently, landing at Newcastle (Williamtown) airport which also services the Royal Australian Air Force. On the way back yesterday I thought I’d buy a book in Sydney & yours (QF32) appealed immediately. While I was waiting for my connecting flight back to Adelaide I gazed out the terminal window to see an A380 about to depart.
A closer view when I photographed it revealed the name Nancy-Bird Walton.
It wasn’t until I started to read your book on the flight that I realised the significance of the two events.
I finished the book this afternoon. Thanks again for an engrossing read.
Nancy Bird-Walton is an iconic name on the side of an iconic aircraft that belongs to an iconic airline. It’s been my privilege and pleasure to fly Nancy many times since the QF32 event.
I tell the passengers before many flights that I have stress-tested the A380 probably more than anyone else and that it’s a delight to fly. It’s easy to be passionate about the things that you love.
Many passengers on share my passion – no doubt many on the flight that you observed departing from Sydney.
Thanks for your support. Rich
Just read the book, what a great story and most of all a great team effort, it really is a great example of the saying ‘ There is no ‘I’ in team’.
I have one question in regards to the landing re. the ‘stall’ warning you received. Did the investigation discover why these occurred? Were you close to stalling or was this just another error due to the conditions that the ECAM had trouble dealing with.
The Stall warning occurred when the Flight Warning Computers (i.e. not the Flight Control Computers) detected that the actual Angle of Attack (directly from the three independent Angle of Attack vanes) was approaching and close to the stalling Angle of Attack.
The warning was real, correctly detected, interpreted and published (aural and visual).
We received the warning because our actual approach was slower than the ideal speed for our configuration (we should have been approaching at a speed of 119% of our stall speed) and we were commanding excess lift during the flare manoeuvre.
The Stall Warning has no reliance or dependency on the ECAM program.
Dear Richard – Captain de Crespigny,
Being an avid aviation junkie, I consumed QF32 with gusto!
What an incredible story of leadership, maintaining clarity in utter confusion, amazing teamwork in the air and on the ground, and technology.
I’ve never been keen on Airbus aircraft being a loyal Boeing person, but have found a new respect and admiration for “fly by wire” and the A380 aircraft’s performance and resilience under such extreme conditions. Also, having been a Purser for Pan Am during the era of the Classics – and parking many times in Sydney and Nadi (Fiji) next to Qantas Classics – I was particularly fascinated by the discussion of their technology, and how rudimentary it all was in comparison to the new generation of wide bodied aircraft.
Congratulations on your leading such an amazing team of pilots and cabin crew. But I must say my jaw dropped when learning you had NOT passed your check ride. He had to be kidding. Obviously, you’re still Captaining A380 flights so they must have cut some slack under the circumstances and granted you another check. I love to get more insights on that!
All the best – I hope you’ll be in the left seat on my next QF flight.
You should be proud. You experienced some of the best years in aviation and I bet you have enough stories to write your own aviation book!
I share your passion and love for the Jumbo – I had 18 wonderful years in the 200s, 300s and 400 series 747s, something I would not want to trade (except for an astronaut’s seat!).
Thanks for the kind remarks and I wish you the best in your retirement.
My husband was given your book as a Christmas book but as he was already into a novel, I picked QF32 up.
I was very keen to read it as my dad was also a Qantas pilot, ending his career as a senior check captain some 30 odd years ago on the Classic 747’s. He was one of the many men who joined Qantas after the second world war, flying Lancasters as part of the Oddbods out of York, England. Quite a number of his crew joined Qantas when they returned to Australia.
What an interesting career you have had and how, as you rightly re-iterated, all that training came to the fore on 4 November 2010. Dad always held Qantas in the highest of regards due primarily to their training of their crew and care of their passengers and said no other airline could match that.
Hats off to you and your crew that (fateful) day for your intuition and calm of mind when all round you systems had failed. It made for an enthralling read.
I wonder if you are still flying or at least passing on your wealth of knowledge to others. I read with interest of the new book you are compiling, so I wish you well with that.
Regards, Allison McKnight.
Thanks for your kind words. Yes I am happily flying the A380 on all its routes and loving it!
Best Regards, Rich
Dear Captain de Crespigny,
A Champion by name, and a champion by nature.
What a brilliant book you’ve written, cutting through to the heart of the issues. Your communication skills are exceptional and it’s clear from the response of your crew and passengers on QF32 that this stood out from the front.
One thing I really valued reading from the book is, if your resume pre-Qantas is anything like the other captains and pilots, I am so proud to put my flying in your and your colleagues hands. To think the exceptional training and experience you had in the Air Force and then how hard it was for you to crack a captains role at Qantas gives me comfort of the incredible training and standards Qantas has for its pilots.
I have two questions which I’m sure you’ve been asked before and I’d be grateful if you can answer if permitted:
1) Why did you not pass your check on that flight?
2) What happens to Jet Fuel when jettisoned from an aircraft (or lost through damage as in QF32). Does it not cause issues dumping fuel into the sea such as environmental concerns similar to an oil spill, and how do you avoid any fuel being dumped over populated/developed land areas when not in control of it like QF32?
Congratulations on a brilliant example of how to be a leader, role-model and gentleman at the same time. I can only hope I’m on an A380 out of Melbourne one day with you at the helm.
Thanks for your kind remarks.
No pilot wants to jettison fuel unnecessarily.
Fuel is normally only jettisoned in emergency situations and penalties are applied for unauthorised releases. Fuel is jettisoned to:
– reduce the weight of the aircraft, and thus reduce the landing speed and the landing distance, and to
– reduce the quantity of fuel (in case of a risk of fire after landing).
In my 35 years of flying, I am not aware of any environmental concern from any aircraft dumping fuel.
Pilots try to dump fuel in areas that minimise the risk to populated areas and properties and the requirements to jettison fuel ideally above 6,000′ ensures that no fuel droplets impact the ground.
Fuel atomises after being jettisoned, and the fuel vapour is transported and thinned with the prevailing winds. Indeed, I have never even smelt fuel vapors when orbiting while dumping fuel.
Thank you very much for your answer, that was very helpful!
Hi Captain Richard
Absolutely amazing telling of your story – thank you!!
Without discounting in any way the importance of the lifetime gift you have given the passengers and their families by the amazing professionalism and presence of mind of you and your colleagues, you have also left us with a really powerful set of lessons from a management practice perspective whether it be focused planning, teamwork, leadership, risk management – the list goes on.
I saw a comment somewhere about “Built to Last” – yours is a good parallel reference. Hopefully someone will give you an honorary doctorate at a business management university if it hasn’t happened already!! By the way, I read the book while travelling overseas, hadn’t finished it by the time I arrived in Denmark but left it there for our hosts and purchased another copy when I got home – our Danish friends were also inspired by your story.
One question if I may – how come you didn’t pass the route check that you were being examined on when you left Changi – can you tell us?
Thanks again for your incredible legacy out of the most dire of circumstances.
“Built to Last” is a great book by Jim Collins. I recently published a review of his other book “Good to Great” which covers Level 5 Leadership and the culture found in the truly great companies. I recommend this book if you are interested in Leadership in any organisation or indeed just for your personal development.
Thank you for your very kind comments – they are received with great humility.
Firstly may I express how excited I am to have this opportunity to contact you via this site.
As both an aviation enthusiast and a nervous and fearful flyer (a bit weird i know) I had one force pulling me to read QF32 and one telling me it will only exacerbate my fears.
I revelled in the technical details and found myself researching and wanting to learn more about aircraft and how they fly. But I also learned that if catastrophic incidents occur, as in QF32, there is still hope. I should take comfort in not only the fact that aircraft like the A380 are safe machines, but those gifted pilots that fly them are just as amazing.
All credit to you Richard for your skill and knowledge.
I believe all things happen for a reason and it is evident all your life experiences leading up to QF32 were paramount in you and your team successfully delivering all passengers and crew to safety. You have taught me that all prior experiences both good and bad contribute to how one deals with what’s to come.
QF32 has only increased my faith and trust in Qantas. Qantas and Australian aviation is lucky to have you. If all pilots and crew adopt your ethics of creating a friendly environment then Qantas will be the finest airline in the world and one I would be privileged to work for.
You have so much to offer and I am happy you are back flying and caring for your passengers. I can only hope one day I have the opportunity of being a passenger on your flight. I know that day I will have no FOF.
If I may ask you 2 Q’s and sorry if they seem basic or have been answered before or I should know the answer.
1- When should a passenger worry during turbulence? If the plane suddenly pitched nose down by air turbulence how does the aircraft not accelerate into a steep descent, is that where elevators come in-or does this never happen?
2-With QF32, when you were approaching your landing and the stall warnings occurred, were the electronics for the elevators and flaps crippled? If so did the wings produce enough lift through increased thrust? If elevators were crippled how did you nose up?
Thank you for sharing yourself and your story with the world.
Thanks for your kind words, I accept them on behalf of everyone in the many crews that contributed to the success that was QF32.
Question 1- When should a passenger worry during turbulence?
Answer 1. If you are flying with reputable airline and you have your seatbelts fastened – then NEVER. The wings cannot be pulled off a Boeing aircraft in turbulence if the aircraft is flown at its correct speed for turbulence penetration.
Question 2 – If the plane suddenly pitched nose down by air turbulence how does the aircraft not accelerate into a steep descent, is that where elevators come in-or does this never happen?
Answer 2. The elevators move to keep either the altitude constant (autopilot engaged), or to keep the attitude constant (Fly By Wire aircraft being manually flown)
Question 3. When you were approaching your landing and the stall warnings occurred, were the electronics for the elevators and flaps crippled? If so did the wings produce enough lift through increased thrust? If elevators were crippled how did you nose up?
Answer 3. The slats were inoperative. The flaps and elevators were working normally. The electronics for the flaps and elevators was 100% OK. The wings produced enough lift. We did not stall, but we were close to it. The control checks proved to us that the aircraft was safe, even though the speed warning sounded.
Thank you Richard for your response and answers. Really appreciate it.
I have just finished reading QF32.
To use the Aussie language “Richard you and all your crew were bloody magic”.
As for the book, one of the most riveting and compelling books I have ever read.
I have flown with QANTAS for many years. The insights provided by Richard have really opened my eyes to the training, professionalism and attention to duty which QANTAS pilots possess.
I am very happy to be a QANTAS Frequent Flyer. Congratulations Richard and your crew on a job well done.
Thank you Ian.
I share your pride for all the crews and staff who displayed such extraordinary professionalism and care on that day.
Good teams like this do not come together by chance, but instead after (in our case) 93 years of intrepid and passionate toil. I am just a caretaker for our forebears efforts and the job never gets easier!
Please get a message to me if you hear my name over the intercome on a future flight. Best Regards and safe flying. Rich
Finally I have received the book. The long way from Australia to Austria was worth waiting every day.
I am just in my first F/O position and enjoyed every page of your book. Besides all the technical details of the A380 I really liked the part in which you explained forming and being part of the team. I try hard to keep this important thoughts in my mind throughout my career.
For me your shared experience and the ‘case study’ of a real incident have contributed to my knowledge and attitude. Maybe I will sometimes remember your words when I get my command upgrade, but this is still a long way to go 🙂 .
I will recommend the book to my colleagues and am really looking forward to your next book.
Luke, thank you for your kind words. You’ve entered a wonderful profession where the rewards are commensurate with your efforts and investments to continually learn and develop. Best of luck with your career – you seem to have it planned out very well. Rich
i have just finished reading QF32. Inspirational..and wonderfully so.
I recently flew with Qantas on the A380 to Singapore and London and was impressed with it’s majesty as we flew that long night from Singapore to London with the moon chasing us all the way to Heathrow. Pure magic. I had QF32 with me and spent a few comfortable hours before the flight upstairs at Changi reading, pausing, and imagining the scenes that played out at that very place a couple of years earlier.
I have now started the long process of building a Revell 1/144 scale A380 which i will complete in Qantas colours and name Nancy Bird-Walton. And next time you drive up to Dungog, tune into Gosfords 2GO when on the F3..i’ll give you a shout out!
It’s Australia Day, and to you, your team and Qantas, thank you for being great Australians. Regards Mike Duncan
Thank you for your kind words Michael. My relatives have moved from Dungog, but if I am in the area again I will surely keep you in mind! I hope to see you on an A380 soon! Best Rich
As an aviation enthusiast, it was a great receiving your book for Christmas. Although I have only started reading regularly within the last 6 months, ‘QF32’ was by far the best book that I have ever read. It was a great insight into what goes on in the skies, and is a brilliant example of teamwork in an environment under a great deal of pressure.
As I mentioned, I’m a keen aviation enthusiast, and having read your book, I have absolutely no doubts that the A380 is the greatest and safest plane in the sky. I do quite a bit of international travelling, and always try to get on the A380. I know that if I hear your voice over the intercom at the beginning of the flight we’ll be in safe hands.
Many thanks and happy flying, Rob
Thank Rob for you kind thoughts. I hope I do meet you on board an A380 one day! Best Regards and Happy New Year! Rich
Dear Sir Richard de Crespigny,
As an avid airline enthusiast myself, I would have to say your book was the best aviation story I have ever read. I have literally just put the book down and have decided to congratulate yourself and crew and ask a couple of questions.
You are an inspiring man, who has had and is still leading a wonderful life. Your book is very personal but it also shows what a team can do when they stick together and all those years of grueling, intense training pays off. [CONGRATS CREW QF32!!]
First Q. Did ATSB simulate your landing and choose not to flare at the last moment before landing, if so what happened?
Second Q. What is FO Matt Hicks up to these days? I could not help but put myself in his chair next to you on the flight, I think his efforts were incredible. What a great performance under those circumstances.
I have nightmares about ECAM and i wasn’t even there! I could only imagine how bad it really was.
All the best Sir Rich, Happy N.Y to you and the family and safe journeys for 2013. I hope you will be flying me to H.K in March 2013.
p.s I can’t believe you FAILED!!
Thanks for your kind thoughts. I’ll pass them on to Matt and the crew.
Answer 1. The landing gear is not required to survive a landing made at a vertical rate of descent of more than 12 feet per second when at maximum landing weight. We were 40 tonnes over our maximum landing weight and descending at 14 feet per second. A simulator would be expected to simulate the results.
Answer 2. I spoke to Matt recently. He’s in great shape!
Thank you for your inspiring book, received for Christmas, finished reading already!
Two things are clear. Firstly, your professional commitment and diligence to understand the aircraft you fly is exemplary. Secondly, the levels of ongoing crew training provided by Qantas must be the world’s best practice, and was demonstrated successfully during your situation.
I am already a Qantas customer; the standard of safety and service provided is why I fly Qantas.
To you and Qantas, keep up the great work, and may you have continued success in 2013 and beyond.
Dear Geoff, Thank you for your kind comments. I hope to see you on board an A380 one day. Please let me know the next time you fly if you hear my name over the intercom.
Happy New Year
Dear Captain Richard,
I received your book to read over the Christmas holidays and finished it in 3 days – a very compelling read and I enjoyed learning about your family and your background. I was proud and honoured to be part of Qantas for 15 years in Telephone Sales in Auckland. You and all the Qantas team together showed true professionalism during an extraordinary event for the airline and passengers.
Thank you Leslie. I am very proud of the many teams that returned the passengers and crew safely home. It was a privilege to be in command of QF32. Happy New Year. Rich
I received your book for Christmas and enjoyed reading it cover-to-cover today (Boxing Day). As an aviation fan, the technical elements were fascinating, but what struck me most was the leadership and teamwork that you and your crew displayed. Well done!
Wow! What a read.
I have wanted to read QF32 for some time. I purchased the book at the airport to read on a flight from Brisbane to Adelaide and just couldn’t put it down.
I loved the descriptions of each machine and their characteristics through from the motorbikes up to the A380.
I was particularly taken with reading about the professionalism of the flight crew during the event and how life’s past lessons were brought to bear in this scenario.
I couldn’t put the book down and am recommending it to everyone.
I don’t fly much and although I enjoyed it, I’m not the best of flyers. This book has boosted my confidence greatly in the machines and the people that fly them. Pity about the route check.
Richard, I know you are a busy man, but I hope you can take the time out of your day to read what I have to say.
Two years ago, I made a decision I wanted to be a pilot. Now as I’m only 16 now, you’d probably just say “pfft, who cares, teenagers change their minds all the time…” Well, I can honestly say after receiving the book as an early Christmas present from my grandparents on Sunday, my decision has been completely and utterly reaffirmed. I’ve read it during absolutely all of my spare time, in and around working 36 hours in the past four days at Redcliffe Aerdrome (YRED) (I have scored a paid position at an aircraft maintenance company for the school holidays)
Your words are inspiring. Not just in terms of your aviation knowledge but also of your ability to be so easy to relate too. The whole time I was reading, I felt like I was in a jumpseat, sitting behind you as shit hit the fan. If I ever get the opportunity to meet you, I honestly would probably just break into tears, you shouldn’t be seen as an inspiration just to people related to the incident, or people in or interested in the aviation industry, but to the wider community. The way you kept a cool head in such an intensely stressful situation is beyond comprehension to me. I just hope that if in the future, I face a situation similar to the one that was bestowed on QF32, I act and react just as you did.
I’ve never been a big fan of Qantas (but that’s sort of come from my family…) yet I hope my views change when I fly with them mid-next year, whether or not you are at the controls.
I wish you clear skies and smooth landings, Captain.
Dear Sam, Thank you for your very well presented thoughts that tell me that you know what you want and that you have the passion and initiative and drive to realise those dreams.
If my book and experiences can motivate you to follow your dreams and be fearless, then I will be happy, and you you will be successful.
You attribute much to me, though I think you realise that hard work and dedication are the first prerequisites to success.
You are on the right track. Work hard, reach for the sky and follow your passions. Your career and success will surely follow.
Best wishes. Rich
Wow, certainly wasn’t expecting such a quick response…
I certainly do realise how much hard work and dedication is required to get into the job (especially over my final two years of schooling) but is the end result worth it, I think yes.
Thank you for the vote of confidence, too. Perhaps, 5-10 years from now, I may be a coworker of yours. Well, I sure hope so, anyway.
Hi Richard, as with your other readers I thoroughly enjoyed your book, thank you for sharing.
As a PPL heading for CPL I was so inspired by your desire to know everything about your aircraft bolt by bolt. I have read many incidents and accidents, and constantly query other pilots, what would they do in various situations, such as a recent instance was a severed thrust cable in a C172.
I loved the way you built your Cessna in the context of mass failures, inverting the logic to ‘what is working’. I often find myself stopped at traffic lights and surprise myself by announcing Engine Failure at various altitudes….. I guess we practice and visualise such events, but it’s the real thing that ultimately tests us.
I was so disappointed to miss your talk in Perth recently, some of our Aust Women’s Pilots Assoc members made it, but I am sorry I didn’t. Maybe you could attend one of our future conferences!
Thank you for your insight into a traumatic event, there is so much involved in being a pilot, particularly with RPT, we learn so much from others. For you to share your journey with us ‘warts and all’ is pretty special. Blue Skies Captain!
What an inspiring book, like all the others readers it was hard to put down. Your excellence in your career is outstanding and along with your wonderful crew you had a perfect outcome for flight QF32. My husband was in the Royal New Zealand Air Force and our son has a shed built especially for the flight simulators he has built, so we all take a keen interest in the aviation world.
I was on the QF9 flight from Singapore to London on 20th June 2010 and I recall the captain saying how he and the crew just loved their A380, I don’t suppose that was you?
I have also read and am going to reread Captain Sullenberger’s book of the Hudson River accident, you are both valued members of the airlines and give us reason to have our full confidence in you. Many thanks for sharing your horendous experiance with us. Kind reagards Helen Thomas
Dear Helen, Thanks for your very kind words. I wish your son happy times in his simulator in the shed.
And what a remarkable coincidence! I looked up my log book and found:
20 Jun 10, Aircraft Registration: OQE, Sector: SIN-LHR, 3:59 hrs Day, 9:00 hrs Night
So I have been honoured to fly you to London. I am glad you enjoyed the sector!
What a small and wonderful world! Safe flying – Rich
have read your book in various sittings rereading many chapters many times. As a civil engineer and former pilot, a fascinating read. Makes me think that any airline executive or aircraft manufacturer that thinks any passenger aircraft can ever be pilotless should wake up. Human error has been responsible for the loss of many lives in aviation, but no ammount of sensors, back up systems, reserve computers etc, can ever sort the facts from “noise”like the human brain. Had this flight been managed by a computer all on board would be dead.
Just finished reading your book – got a signed copy from Sydney domestic on the way to Perth. The young lady at the news agency ensured I purchased the signed copy. Your book may have triggered a latent aviation interest in me and while the engineering aspects did fuddle me a bit, your emphasis on professionalism and teamwork and ensuring “egos are checked out” resonated. Chuckled at your descriptions of mitigating ringleaders that could incite panic – your book has made me more conscious and aware of the training all your colleagues have undertaken. I am glad that the “coalface” of pilots and cabin crew is still fully functional and above reproach. Happy to continue flying with QAN and pay for the quality. Chapeau as they say. Now off to track down and read Sullenberger’s account.
I commend you on your actions in bringing QF32’s abrupt flight to a safe conclusion against all odds….however from a passengers point of view I read with concern the length of time it took passengers to disembark after landing, after their ordeal, perhaps they deserved less angst.
Steve thanks for your feedback. There is a very clear distinction in the pilots minds between comfort and safety and there are always many ways to resolve a crisis. Clearly the best case is where there are no injuries.
There could have been many decision paths to the injury free outcome, and I think we thought of them all, but ultimately these will be dynamically prioritised by crews on the spot using the resources of the crew, decision analysis, every bit of information and lots of knowledge, training, experience and teamwork. Ultimately I was 99% sure that we would have broken bones (or much worse) if we had used other evacuation methods.
You are probably aware of the many case studies re evacuations that support my caution – one of the best occurring just earlier this year!
I appreciate that you might have handled the Black Swan emergency differently and I would definitely support your method if it resulted in less injuries than ours.
There could be another discussion about the properties of jet fuel, but this topic would be too technical. I’ll save it for my big jets book.
Best Regards Rich
The book club meeting that I mentioned in comments on 3 August was held on 26 Nov. QF32 had been chosen as the book for November and the book club ladies who had read your book were universal in their praise for both your handling of the emergency and your writing skills.
One club member had been unable to read the book in time for the Monday’s meeting because she was still number 10 on the waiting list at the city library for a copy of QF 32. After listening to the others’ comments, she remains determined to eventually get the book and read it.
Congratulations and best wishes,
Hi Col, thanks for this. I’d be pleased to custom sign copies of QF32 for the ladies in the book club (one group order at a special price) should the library waiting list become unacceptable. Please contact Coral.. Rich
I have just finished reading your book and found it very hard to put down following the engine incident. The challenges that you all faced are incredible and I was particularly impressed with the honesty about dealing with the mental stress following the incident.
I have mentioned to friends that I have been reading the book and how much I have enjoyed it. They have enquired about the story putting me off of flying but I feel even more comfortable with air travel now.
All the best to you and your family. Graham
Tom Frisch from Canada again. I’ve finished reading your account of the flight – fascinating – and have a couple of comments.
1) I hope this hasn’t already been mentioned but on p. 273, in discussing the risks of evacuation, you wrote that one of them is pax walking in front of Engine 1 “that was still running”. Yet you don’t find out that Engine 1 hasn’t been shut down until p. 275 (beginning of Ch 26).
2) I can’t help comparing the QF32 CRM with that of Air France 447, which crashed into the South Atlantic in June 2009. No doubt you’ve read the official accident report that the French authorities have published. I also read the account by Jean-Pierre Otelli, a French test pilot and journalist, in his book “Erreurs de Pilotage, Vol. 5” (Ed. Altipresse, 2011), which is based on the CVR and FDR tapes that were somehow leaked to him. The book is written entirely in French but my mainly school French, combined with a good dictionary, was perfectly adequate for a good understanding. The book brings to life an extraordinary story far better than the official report does. During the 4 minutes and 24 seconds that elapsed from the airspeed indications being lost (due to frozen Pitots) to the aircraft impacting the ocean, the STALL warning was annunciated 75 times (over a total period of 54 seconds), yet not once was the word “stall” uttered by any of the three crew members. I strongly recommend this book.
Tom thank you for your keen observation. You are correct about pages 273 and 275. I will correct page 273 in the next reprint. Rich
Dear Capt Richard,
I am a B767 captain from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
I’ve just read your book and I would like to thank you for sharing you story with us. I am way less experienced than you but I could feel I was in your Flight Deck that day and I am sure I could take a lot from it, I’ve learned some lessons that certainly I’ll take for the remain of my career. You probably have helped save more lives than those ones aboard the QF32. Looking forward for your Big Jets book !
Hi Rich (forgive the informality),
I received my signed (thanks!) copy of QF32 a few days ago and have been dipping into it at length, especially of course the critical phase of Flt QF32.
A terrific read – congratulations! Once I’ve finished the book I’ll probably have more questions and comments but for now…
I’m not a pilot but I LOVE flying and take a great interest in its technical aspects. I look back with longing on the time spent on the flight deck on long-hauls (best of all sitting in on the landing) in pre-9/11 days, days we will never see again.
I was struck by your intense admiration of the A380, as well as your extremely high opinion of the Trent 900 engine, which contrasts with the impression left on me by the Four Corners TV programme. I made a return trip Montreal-Paris on an Air France A380 in 2011 and it was love at first sight. The Soopah (as I call it) is far and away my favourite airliner as a passenger. I have a Singaporean friend who’s a captain with SIA and who last year converted to the Soopah after years on the 744 and 777. He’s still getting used to it and I’m waiting to hear how his feeling for the plane develops (I think he still misses the yoke with its feedback).
I’m so glad that the aftermath of QF32 for you was nothing like the aftermath of BA38 for Peter Burkill, whose book “Thirty Seconds to Impact” is also a fascinating read, for different reasons than “QF32”. Thank God Peter – another master aviator – eventually did return to flying heavies.
Finally, my theory for why you didn’t pass your route check: surely it’s because you never completed the route, which was curtailed by an unfortunate incident. I wonder if I’m right….
Anyway, back to the book…
Thank you for your many kind comments Tom.
I have always been a fan of Rolls Royce engines, particularly after I researched their reliability for a chapter in my next book about big jets. I knew that the big jet engines failed only once in 300,000 hrs which is at least six times more reliable than the most stringent (and non applicable to quad aircraft) aviation standard!
The Four Corners program aggressively held to its mantra to dramatise the failure. I maintained throughout all my interviews that a turbine disk failure, that happens once in the life of a 40 year and 200,000,000 hr engine design is bad luck, even if it was due to a build error. “That’s why we have more than one engine, and that’s why pilots practice engine failures!” I held this line throughout the Four Corner’s interviews though a lot of these comments did not make it to air.
I remain in awe of the reliability of Rolls Royce engines. Every engine manufacturer has failures in their fleet (for example two in the alternative A380 engine made my Engine Alliance in just the last week).
I suppose I am of the old school that understands the engines down to their internal parts and am awestruck by their complexity, power and yet wonderful reliability. As an empirical skeptic – I also always have the numbers to support my reasoning. When I publish the failure rates for aviation turbine and piston engines for time going back to the late 1970s, you will then see how fortunate the travelling public is to sit atop the remarkable and extraordinarily reliable engines that we see today. The jet engines have remarkable performance statistics (compared to the piston engines) for power-to-weight, weight, thrust, frontal area, specific thrust, reliability, complexity and cost. We have never witnessed a period of ultra reliable power-plants like what we are experiencing now.
So when it comes to reliability and performance, I remain resolute and in awe for Rolls-Royce, P&W, GE and Engine Alliance, and their contributions to aviation over the past 109 years!
Best Regards, Rich
Thanks for your long and detailed reply on the subject of modern engine reliability, which indeed is truly astounding.
I found the Four Corners documentary quite well done on the whole (so often the media botch the job of dramatizing an aviation accident/incident) but of course they glossed over the hour you spent in the air stabilizing Nancy-Bird but I suppose that kind of work doesn’t lend itself to drama. Clearly they overemphasized the engine failure. I was particularly struck by how articulate and level-headed the passengers interviewed were. Often pax talk the most incredible nonsense but not this group.
After I made my original post I listened to the long radio interview with you and in it you explained why you “failed” your route check – the check pilots had to break off their monitoring. So I think I can claim my theory was maybe partly right, eh what?
Thanks again for your interest and I’m looking forward to your Big Jets book.
I just read the “QF32” book. It was very informative. You delivered the many technical data with a similar ease to that of an experienced teacher. Have you ever thought of becoming an A380 teacher/instructor as I do not think there would be an abundance of these specialist people out there.
Mathematics and Aviation Studies teacher in WA
I agree, fantastic read! Being a current private pilot touring our great country from time to time, I have encountered my share of sticky situations, including a recent very nasty crosswind landing at Tyabb ahead of an approaching storm!
You have earned my profound respect but more importantly, you have taught me that there is no prosthetic for airmanship and basic flying skills. You seamlessly blended gut feel with deep technical knowledge and most importantly, accepted input from your fellow pilots, especially Matt.
I was not at all surprised when, early on in the book, you articulated quite simply the aviators mantra : Aviate, navigate, communicate! When I was learning how to fly, my instructor kept drilling this into my head and in the aforementioned sticky situations, always fell back on these 3 words exactly in that sequence.
Thanks for a forthright, honest and comprehensive account of that very eventful day. I wish you and your family the very best and hope to bump into you in my travels.
Just published my review of the book on my blog – http://paulwdaniel.com/2012/11/06/qf32a-review/.
And while I didn’t say so in the review, congratulations to you, Richard, and everyone involved. It truly is one of aviation’s fantastic success stories.
Paul thank you for your very kind review. It’s a pity you did not make it to the RAAF – you would have loved it and I would have gained another friend. Best Regards Rich
Great read Richard,you certainly are an extraordinary bloke!I was only a PPL but have read Handling the Big Jets. A most interesting book. I bought it to keep the brain active after I retired.
I also have one of your flying kneepads, in grey. I bought it at the time of my PPL navexs.
Thanks again for your book,I find it most uplifting to read,and look forward to About Big Jets to accompany DP Davies book. Regards.
Congratulations on a task well handled under extreme circumstances. You are truly an ” Officer and Gentleman ” and as mentioned in another post the best marketing advert for Qantas and Airbus.
It certainly was a task that needed thinking not only within the required parameters but also outside of laid down operating instructions. The crew co-operation and working together as a team was fantastic. The job was completed with aircraft and passengers back on the ground, but more so no injury to anyone. Your debriefing with the passengers afterwards was most commendable. Also the party with crew to unwind was extremely necessary. Once again congratulations and well done. Your book, comments from readers and support from your family certainly rises above that silly little tick in the check form box.
I heard part of your Conversations with Richard Fydler on the ABC radio and determined then that I had to read your book. Saw it on display and grabbed it, then couldn’t put it down. It gave me such insight into a pilot’s role and responsibility – things I couldn’t even comprehend. I have so much respect for flight crew now – and I will NEVER complain if I am being delayed because the crew are working through the pre-flight checks. Thank you so much.
Like many other readers, I was compelled to find out more about QF32 after reading your remarkable, well written story. I saw your book at Adelaide airport before I boarded my Qantas flight back to Perth and I knew straightaway I had to purchase it. I was very excited at seeing this website address at the back of your book with the opportunity to write something which hopefully you may read.
I remember the first time I saw the huge A380, which happened to be the famous Nancy Bird Walton, land at Perth Airport on 14th October 2008. She was beautiful and majestic.
Last year I was lucky enough to have a go at ‘flying’ in a small aeroplane owned by my partner’s Aunty who lives along a small airfield in New Zealand. Although I have never persued learning to fly, I realised from that brief experience that being amongst pilots comes with a certain camarderie. Like you say, you’re are never too old to learn, you just have to make it happen and take full advantage of opportunities presented to you.
Richard, your book is very candid and trueful. I felt previleged to read your story on post crisis management and humbled by the fact that you shared this terrible time of your life so others may learn from your experience.
I too would also like to know why you didn’t pass the route check. Was it because there was no check for ‘Extreme’ on the difficulty of flying?
Thanks again Richard, for sharing your amazing story and may you fly as Captain until I can experience flying aboard the A380 under your command.
Dear Vynka, Thank you for your very kind words. I am please you enjoyed the book and hope I might be flying you one day in an A380. I will answer your question shortly. Kind Regards Rich
In answer to the Thunderbirds questions –
1. FAB stands for ‘Fully Acknowledge Broadcast’ It was one of the odd little abbreviations that Gerry Anderson put into the series.
2. Pilots supposedly named as follows:
Scott Tracy – Scott Carpenter
John Tracy – John Glenn
Virgil Tracy – Virgil (Gus) Grissom
Gordon Tracy – Gordon Cooper
Alan Tracy – Alan Shepherd
Thanks guys, I must admit I always thought FAB was short for Fabulous, but I suspected the Tracy’s were named after famous Aviators and Astronauts.
Yes, they were the “Right Stuff”, the initial Mercury astronauts. Such a wonderful period in civilization’s history!
This would be so FAB fantastic to get to: Cosford Flights of Fantasy’ – an iconic sci-fi weekend
I agree. I have such wonderful memories of the Thunderbirds and Lady Penelope. Two Questions (think about it before Googling):
1. What did “FAB” mean?
2. Who were the Thunderbird pilots named after?
[.. a few minutes later ….] I am receiving answers to these questions every few minutes. However I am resisting publishing your answers because I think your discovery of the answers is all part of the fun and the surreal journey that we all loved when the Thunderbirds series started in the 60s. “Thunderbirds” is a path in time travel back to the 1960s conjuring images of Kennedy and Armstrong, and the allure of space travel. A cross of Biggles and Buck Rogers.
From the moment I saw your interview on The Project and when they advertised your book, I don’t think I have ever been so intent on getting a book before.
5 minutes ago I finished reading your book. I went straight onto this website so that I can just say thank you so much for writing this book! As a 16 year old wanting to be a pilot this book has inspired me more to pursue this dream than anything else has and I have you to thank. So once again, thanks for the awesome read!
Dear Thomas, thank you for your kind comments. I am pleased that The Project and my book have primed your motivation and determination to excel at school and then for you to come join me in our wonderful profession. Aviation needs more inspired persons and you appear to have the drive and “spark” to succeed.
Don’t give up! Work hard and please let me know if I can help you in any way. Best of luck! Rich
Thanks for replying! 😀 it has taken me this long to get over my shock, I was sooooo surprised and happy!
I might take you up on your offer for assistance in the future 🙂
I am french, 24 year old female, and I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated your french family roots chapters. I came across your book after going on youtube for hours watching all possible crashing stories because I’m scared of flying. I finished your book in 1 day and I can say I am not scared anymore thanks to you. Hopefully I’ll be flying with you as a captain when I’m on my next Paris-Singapore-Melbourne flight in November to meet my aussie boyfriend (who is from Melbourne Grammar as well…).
I LOVE YOU, QANTAS AND YOUR BOOK.
Cheers et merci !
My first flight ever was on a BOAC flight from Ceylon to Australia via Singapore, October 1967. The engine caught fire just 30 minutes out of Singapore. The captain was so calm, he actually showed us all the fire before he put it out. We spent 3 days in Malaysia before flying out to Sydney! This book reminded me of that and I now know what might have been going on in the flight deck
As an aviation tragic and a former computer programmer I was delighted when my 24 year old son gave me a copy of QF32 book for Father’s Day. I was fascinated reading all about A380 ECAM and how it prioritises alerts according to severity and offers solutions. I’m sure that with the complexity of A380 systems, sensors and integration there’s no way a corporation or a group of aeronautical programmes can anticipate ALL likely occurrences into a software system. I had the pleasure of working with a Pan Am B707 pilot in the early 80’s who was contracted to Sir “Joh” Bjelke-Petersen government air wing with the Queensland Government. We had many conversations about the limits of such ‘expert systems’. Eventually, the human mind is superior, proven by your ‘inversion’ approach to concentrate on what worked with the A380 rather than being focused on what had failed. Thanks for the great read.
I have just completed reading the most amazing aviation book – QF32.
I agree with other comments it should be a compulsory read for all pilots. It so well written and inspirational. I am an avid flyer and have no fears of flying, this book only allays any fears but proves once and for all that QF employs, trains nothing than the best aviators!
I hope that QF continues to fly Internationally and grows again to be a real force in international aviation.
Dear Richard, What a great tale and performance. The comments above say it all.
One small query. My old flight instructor used to say to me . “Speed with the elevators and rate of descent with the throttle”. You seemed to control speed with the throttle during landing. Any reasons for this please? Dr John Snell FRCS
Dr John, thanks for your comments. The combination of thrust and attitude will always determine the speed and rate of descent – but traditionally for big jets the coordination of thrust and attitude changes with the phase of flight.
– Normally speed is controlled by elevators during an idle thrust OPEN DESCENT (Airbus) or FLIGHT LEVEL CHANGE descent (Boeing).
– It’s faster changing the engine’s RPM than the aircraft’s attitude. So during approach for both Airbus and Boeings, the attitude is first varied to capture then maintain the constant glide path and then the thrust is used to maintain the speed under gusting wind conditions.
I am an avionics LAME, a Graduate electronics engineer, a Flight Instructor and the son of a career airline pilot.
Something that has puzzled me ever since the incident, and that I have never heard adequately explained, was the amount of time between losing the #2 engine and landing back at Changi. I was never critical, as some folks have been. My attitude was, “there’s something here that I don’t understand”.
Your detailed and lucid presentation of the sequence of events as you “rebuilt the aircraft” allowed me finally to understand that delay.
Beautifully presented, technically enthralling and left me with a greater admiration for the amazing work of the Qantas team on the Flight Deck that day.
Thank you for your kind words Peter. You have identified the key components of TEM – or Threat and Error Management. It took us 1 hour and 50 minutes to identify the threats, try to fix them, or mitigate the failures that remained. We had the time to run the checklists and reconfigure the aircraft.
I remain confident that it was better to land a reconfigured aircraft that we understood rather than rush to a landing in an aircraft that was in an unknown state.
The final ATSB report on our flight is due out later this year – it will be interesting to see if they address this subject.
TEM has application to all crisis situations and I am proud of what our teams accomplished that day.
Best Regards. Rich
Thoroughly enjoyed reading of your life journey and you had me on the edge of my seat throughout and in tears as you shared your thoughts and feelings of the hours after you had landed and completed your passenger debriefing.
Congratulations to you and the wonderful team you had on that flight.
I love the Thunderbirds too. I grew up with them and still get a episode out occasionally still.
You are an inspiration, Thank you.
An awesome book even for a 14 year old! It has so many great lessons for every grade of pilot! I thoroughly enjoyed it, Thankyou Richard!
Richard, this is one of the best books I have ever read. I am obsessed with aircraft “incidents” and had read all of Mcarthur Job’s publications long before “Air Crash Investigation” was around. My friends think I am insane and I have been known to give a (I am told) hilarious speech at my toastmasters club on the absurd reasons that aircraft have crashed.
Your book was spellbinding and I wish I had read it before i first flew on an A380 – I would have been even more excited! I have one question if you read this – why did you fail your route check? was it because you didn’t get to your destination?
Congratulations on the job well done and the book – makes me even more determined to keep flying with Qantas which I do whenever I can.
I usually rotate three or four books on the go at any one time; QF 32 put them on the back shelf as I read it one grab. Thank you for the experience.
I’m just sorry that my Dad who was flying WW2, invalided out, and who was terrifying in the right hand seat, never got the opportunity to read this one.
I have always been edgy around flying unless I was in the front seat, but having read this I’ll sit down the back, turn on my iPod and go to sleep.
I’m about to start reading it again but it will have to go into the roster. Sorry about that.
Kind regards to you and yours. Bob
Hi Richard, finished reading the book, and thoroughly enjoyed the great read, loved the technical stuff and was never a fan of the A380, but you have convinced myself to reconsider this. To be honest the B747-400 is my favourite Queen of the Skies and remains so, preferring them on my last trip to Europe and return from the USA over the newer Flagship A380. I was surprised to see the engine failure rates, you yourself having 4 failures. I assume as the B747-400 fleet ages, their engines are also nearing a higher rate of failure than the 300 000 hours average?
Your crew and passenger management was magnificent and displayed great leadership. I agree that your upfront and total honesty turned a potential PR nightmare into a positive experience for the company but more importantly reduced the PSM on those who were directly affected by QF32.
Love your Thunderbirds pic, grew up with IR as a kid in the 70’s, I look forward to travelling on the A380 and hearing your name as the PIC on the PA.
I loved the Thunderbirds: I used to wake up early every Saturday morning to watch it and thought Lady Penelope was ravishing. Best Regards – Rich
well I must say I have never heard Lady Penelope referred to as ravishing, as much as I idolised her manners and impeccable class, it was her pink Rolls that really excited me. I would watch Thunderbirds with Mum, one of the special things we did together.
Just a quick question in regards to QF32, the check flight was not a pass, what was the outcome of this, did the consider the flight a fail, or reschedule a check flight?
Rich you’re gonna have to put the answer to that question at the top of the page as FAQ #1 😉
Alan, you didn’t miss anything Rich has answered me privately but I’ve seen it is a common question.
I was thinking Rich might be keeping us in suspense for a sequel.
Congratulations to you and your splendid crew Richard!
A most fascinating and a brilliant account of that flight.
I have just completed QF32 – I was luck enough to hear Richard speak at a Toyota conference in August last year about this remarkable incident. I was totally and completely inspired by Richard’s account and attempted to relay this to my husband after. My husband had goose bumps from the bits I told him – he is not a reader but is reading this book.
I have to admit I am a nervous flyer – but after hearing Richard speak & now reading this book and knowing how completely competent Qantas pilots are – I feel so much more confident in flying, not only in the pilots abilities but now the aircrafts capabilities.
Thank you for writing this amazing book & sharing all the intimate details of this flight. Richard, your professionalism toward the job at hand, the way you recognize your team & the empathy you showed to the passengers is something i am in awe of.
We too only fly Qantas, and I too hope that one day I hear that my captain is the great “Captain Richard de Crespigny” and along with your amazing team of QF32. What a privilege this would be. Kindest regards Janet Szigeti
I have just completed reading QF32 and Richard has produced a brilliant book.
I am not a pilot but I was able to understand even the most technical passages. The book was a birthday gift from my daughter and I deliberately delayed starting it until I had digested the full crash report of AF447. In my mind these two events define the opposite extremes of the CRM spectrum. In fairness to the Air France flightcrew they had a dark and dirty night operating close to the limits of the flight envelope, but the situation was still within the grasp of good CRM practice. My sympathies to those on board AF447, and my congratulations to the crew of QF32.
I know you’re busy with replies but I have to ask on what basis you did not pass the check ride? Glad to know you’re still flying for QF nevertheless.
Richard, My 8 year old son who loves commercial aircraft chose QF32 for Father’s Day for my husband Mark. I have just finished it. I spent 9 years in the RAAF as a clerk and lastly as an Administration Officer. I flew in Hercs, Caribous, the 707, CT4, Winjeel, Black Hawk and Orion in those 9 years. Since I left in 1995 I have flown commercial airlines across the country.
Never, until now have I fully appreciated the skill, the training, the absolute leadership qualities of the pilots of those aircraft. After reading your account I believe your RAAF training was crucial to how you viewed your role as the leader of the craft and that your leadership did not end until you had debriefed all passengers and crew. This is pure Defence Force breeding and I find 15 years after leaving the RAAF that I still operate in a similar fashion. I am proud of you as a truly inspirational Australian.
As a side note my 8 year old wants to write a version for kids. He is fascinated by your story and tells me all kinds of technical details about the flight and different aircraft.
Sue your son sounds like a wonderful young man! I have a book that I will send him to help motivate him to find his passion, inspire him, help him work hard at school (though I understand he is only 8 years old!) and write that book. Rich.
Richard, great read. Five questions please:
1. Can you tell us about how you came to know Neil Armstrong and what was he was like as a person?
2. The stall situation during landing. What height was the landing gear above the runway when this happened? Did the wing actually stall, or was the computer reporting this because there was an insufficient safety margin remaining, and you knew from your control check flights that the wing, in its current damaged configuration, would still be OK at this airspeed and this angle of attack?
3. The 4 flat tires. You said the rate of descent during touchdown changed from 14 feet/s to 2.5 feet/s due to pushing the side-stick fully forward and ground effect then “pillowed” the airplane. Were the 4 flat tires due to the higher speed initial contact of the landing gear with the runway before you dropped the nose?
4. Can you please tell what was the estimated flow rate of the fuel from the damaged wing, both during flight and afterwards as it sat on the runway?
5. With no air-conditioning, lots of falling fuel, a hot tropical runway and extremely hot brakes, was the smell nauseating for both crew & passengers, as you sat there for a couple of hours after landing?
Good questions Dan. I’ll answer them all one-by-one and others in many “Back Stories” that will be published at this site.
Please register to be notified about the “Back Stories” by completing the “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL” at the top of the column to the right. Rich
Richard, You are the reason we fly Qantas.
Hi Richard It’s midday on Father’s Day. I just finished the book I was given this morning !
Congratulations on two achievements.
1. Your handling of the incident.
2. Your success in codifying it into an exciting, extremely compelling and thought provoking but above all, inspirational book.
Hello Rich- I took early retirement from a Major US Airline as the Manager of Human Factors. I now work full time contracting with the leasing companies ferrying and doing demo flights. I am qualified on all of the Boeings and the A-320, A-330 and A-340. I do not have words to express my admiration for your professionalism and skill. My fervent hope is that if the time ever comes, I could react in the same manner. I wish you all the best and have a definite interest in a book on flying big jets. When you stop having an interest in learning, it’s time to quit. Best regards,Jack Rubino
Dear Jack, Thank you for your kind words that resonate with me given your past experiences. I love your quote and will try to share it with others. Best Regards. Rich
Hi Richard, loved your book !! I use to work for QF for 20 yrs from 1973 as a financial analyst in E&M under Mick Ryan. My partner made an oral history of Nancy Bird Walton before the first A380 was named after her,for Chairman Jackson I wonder if you have listened to it. Regards Ed
What a great read! Thanks for giving us such a detailed view into your life and writing the book in a way, even “non-avionics” and “and non-technical people” can understand what the book is all about.
I love flying with Qantas, especially with the A380’s. My son works as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer for Qantas and finishes his apprenticeship in 6 months. Part of his training was to work with the A380 crew and he loved every second of it. I also have to say (hopefully he doesn’t read this lol), he doesn’t like reading but can’t wait for me to hand over the book to him. I am looking forward to discuss the book with him.
I read it every morning on my way to work and every afternoon on the tram home, thank you for providing such a fantastic and detailed account of the experience on that day.
I have just finished reading ‘QF32’ and thoroughly enjoyed it. I am currently an F/A-18 pilot serving with 75 Squadron and have always had a passion for flying heavy jets for Qantas and hope to follow a similar career path. I found myself enthralled in the book, and at times re-reading sections as I found the lessons quite valuable and applicable to my current role. I look forward to the release of your next book. Kind regards, Adam Rouessart.
Being a pilot, the book had my heart racing. I found myself positioned on the flight deck as an observer with you focusing on the task whilst dealing with all the unknowns and all the time striving for the best possible outcome. A fantasic read!
An inspiring read, of which I found hard to put down. Outstanding Team Work, doing what you have been trained for, both in the air, & on the ground. God Speed!
I heard of the book on the radio. My birthday was coming up, and guess what I received… I started reading the book deliberately slowly, but once you took off, so did I: one sitting session reading the book to the end!
I am an aviation enthusiast and retired glider pilot, daily lurking in the Technical and Operations forum of http://www.airliners.net. From there I was well aware of the feat of airmanship it was to put that severely damaged bird down safely. Yet, I still found the book riveting and thoroughly fascinating.
One thing surprised me: while you referred to several well known aviation incidents (Air Transat, the Hudson river splashdown and others), the dynamics of what happened in your cockpit are diametrically opposite to what happened in AF447, and so were the consequences. I was expecting a reference any time, but it never came despite being topical, and it is impossible that you wouldn’t have thought of it. I am curious (not annoyed!) as to why. Professional respect?
Anyway, great job; both to QF32 the flight, and to QF32 the book.
Apart from offering congratulations on a marvellous read which I had trouble putting down, I am in awe at the magnitude of your problems following the explosions, and the manner in which you (and everyone else involved) achieved the right outcome. Well done, a cool head, training and experience counts for everything.
With your indulgence I would like to comment on three points that you raise in the book.
Flight Control Check
I strongly support your decision to carry out a check prior to touchdown at a safe altitude where you could easily have flown out of any adverse performance. I am surprised that any criticism could be levelled at you for that decision. I am also surprised that any opposition was raised on the day from members of the crew. Possibly the terminology may have confused those involved. I would suggest that it was not strictly a “flight control check” (carried out on the ground before take-off to ensure that there is full and free movement of the control surfaces), but rather an “aircraft controllability check” to ensure that you had full or at least sufficient control of the aircraft at each configuration change right down to the landing configuration.
It seems to me that this check should be mandatory in any circumstance where the aerodynamics and/or the controls are compromised in any way. The last thing you would want is for the aircraft not to respond to control inputs at very low altitudes. If you discover any abnormality in handling during a check at a safe altitude then you can take steps to change something to ensure that the arrival is safe. It would be a little late to discover that you had an uncontrollable roll to the right, for example, at 2-300 ft. on finals.
I know that you understand this full well, but I have written it for those who may read your book and do not.
De flare prior to touchdown
I have been told that this is an acceptable technique in Airbus aircraft. I remember many years ago in Butterworth an old Iroquois SAR pilot named Frank Clough took me for a fly. During the briefing he stressed that he would not tell me which foot to push with changes in collective or speed or anything else that may affect the balance of that rotary beast. He said, “Just do what you have to do to achieve balanced flight”. The same applies to your landing that A380. You had a very narrow window to achieve what you needed to be able to stop in the available runway and you used the controls to achieve that. Good work! You may have floated for that extra 100 metres or more had you not used that technique, which you obviously knew and had used many times before.
Humming bird heart rate – I bet your heart rate was approaching that on finals!
Loved the book, but as always with these things, I am left with a few unanswered questions because in essence, I’m like you and I need to understand everything. I’m not sure if they are omissions, or if they are “assumed” knowledge, so I’ll list them all.
1. “Remote” air turbine – or Ram air turbine?
2. LanDing Performance Application, or Landing Distance Performance Application?
3. The laptop is connected to the aircraft electronics, but you had to enter details into it? How is this the case? If the laptop is connected, then shouldn’t it know the current aircraft parameters? More importantly, if all these details come from the aircraft avionics, why can’t these compute landing performance without the need of a laptop – what does this device achieve?
4. You failed your route check? Why? What are the parameters surrounding this? Could you have passed if you did something differently? You said earlier that if you fail your pay stops and you cease flying – that is obviously not the case, so what happened here?
1a. Ram Air Turbine. See Corrections.
1b. Please read QF32 p 225 or search for LDPA.
2. Note: The following are my thoughts only – they have not been verified by Airbus:
The inability of the laptops to fully communicate and interface to the avionic systems is not an fault or accident, it is an intentional by-product of the A380’s network architecture – defined early during the aircraft’s design process.
The laptop has very limited scope to communicate and interact with the avionic systems. The aircraft networks are configured very similarly to your basic company networks, with router interfaces separating the External, Protected and Private networks.
The avionics are contained in the Protected network.
The laptops are contained in the Private network – nearly at a peer level with the Protected (avionics) network. The Private (laptop) network is untrusted by the Protected network, meaning that no unsolicited packets are allowed (by default) to pass from the Private (laptop) network to the Protected network.
In addition to the network isolation, the laptop is certified, configured, operated and maintained to less onerous standards than the avionic systems. The benefit of this separation is that changes can be easily made to the laptop setup. The laptop system is flexible and modifyable, but must be isolated from aircraft avionic systems.
4. I will provide a full answer to this question shortly.
So interesting – thank you for your detailed response. Of course it all makes sense now. Congratulations again on a landmark air safety progression.
I have just purchased the autographed print version of QF32 after reading the ebook. I look forward to receiving the print version to share with my household.
QF32 is a fascinating story about professionalism, caring and survival and gives many technical insights as to how aircraft work including the A380 for the many who are interested as I am.
You didn’t pass the flight check?! Now there’s a fascinating insight into bureaucracy!
Along with so many others, I am proud of you and for good reason.
Thank you for a great book.
I have a fascination for reading and understanding the causes of aircraft crashes – you, your crew, your passengers and an engineering marvel (A380) have survivied to tell by far, the best story ever.
You mentioned that you are not particularly religious, however, there must have been some sort of divine intervention during those 7 minutes prior to the firemen pumping water and foam onto the landing gear and fuel?
Hi Mike, thanks for your kind comments. I am an empirical skeptic, and so only facts, numbers and statistics drive my thoughts and reasoning in the flight deck.
Your question about the fuel and hot brakes is an interesting one. I could write another book on the chemistry of jet fuel that I think the lay reader might enjoy. Jet fuel has qualities that would surprise 95% of pilots – it’s very different to gasoline. I’ll discuss more about Jet Fuel over the coming months. The final ATSB report will also be a riveting read. Subscribe to this QF32 site (complete the “FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL” section in the column to the right) if you want to receive updates about this discussion. Richard
Dear Capt De Crespigny,
Have just finished reading your book on my new Ipad and am kicking myself for not purchasing your hard cover book. I own a large collection of aviation books as an amateur historian and found your book fascinating.
I would also like to commend, as a former depression sufferer, your opennes over a disease that has been, through many pages of time, a taboo subject, particularly among the male population. May your opennes and candid revelations assist a fellow sufferer in finding the help needed. In my view, you still have not stopped helping, as I consider myself one of your passengers, just by reading your book.
I also write articles for a worldwide Virtual Aviation website, and would love to know if I can have a few words from you for our front page.
All the very best,
I am a 12 year old, who wants to be a pilot.
After reading this book, i felt that the way that you had handled the situation onboard QF32 was highly professional and i also liked the way you described your flying. it was the best book i have ever read!
Thanks for writing this book, and i will be registering for ‘Big Jets’ soon.
Just finished the book, Richard.
As a pilot for 30 years, I found it gripping. I nodded a lot re Tapini – I have flown in there quite a few times… The Caribou “stick and rudder” times served you well, eh!.
As we say in the senior service – Bravo Zulu, mate. 🙂
I have just finished reading QF32 and not since reading the story of Douglas Bader for the first time about 20 years ago did I find myself shaking and unable to stop reading.
This is a great story, honestly written and testament to the skills and professionalism of all the crew involved.
I have two issues that leave me baffled.
1.You mentioned that you did not provide a good service on that day. Getting 469 passengers and crew back on the ground safely given your situation is not good service……it is remarkable service. Mate, you and your crew ought to be given the highest praise for unbelievably great service and then some. It vindicates our decision to fly QANTAS, evn if a bit more expensive. Sure the aircraft are the same but the difference is in the crew and that is worth paying for.
2. You said at the end that they failed you on your route check. I’m staggerred to think that after all your effort, and even given some mistakes you openly talk about, that you could be failed.
Given the worst of the worst situations you could ever face, your decisions resulted in the safe return of all passengers and crew. I just can’t see how you could be failed for such magnificent leadership and airmanship.
All I can say is that I would be extremely happy to have you introduce yourself as my captain on any flight.
Dear Captain De Crespigny,
Its a fair while since I read a book in a single haul, I couldn’t put QF32 down.
I am not an aviator (unfortunately), I work as a cardiac anaesthetist. The science of Human Factors is relatively new in medicine but an area that I am intrigued by – indeed a few of my colleagues have already devoured QF32. The story of QF32 is a tale of quality and safety that any high risk organisation should embrace.
Your team deserves all of the accolades they receive. I also think that QF should take homage from all of this – their safety culture is legendary.
Thanks for such a transparent account of this nightmare, I’ll fly easier having read it.
I have just finished reading the final report issued by the French authorities about the AF447 Rio-Paris accident of an A330 and just comparing their CVR transcript to what you wrote in your book I’m amazed by the differences which exist in the way, you, air transport pilots, do your job.
Rich, your crew behaved very professionnally, you worked as a perfectly organized crew, working calmly through a very confused situation and you eventually succeeded.
[ ….. paragraph edited out …..]
I remember that, when I was a flight instructor I teached my trainees to fly without ASI, just keep the good attitude with the artificial attitude indicator and adjust the power to the required setting… But maybe it was too basic and sophisticated planes require sophisticated procedures, at least in some pilots’minds?
I think that civil aviation, even if the planes are now wonderful pieces of engineering, still need trustable crews, able to face undocumented situations, situations to which they have never been trained in simulators, only human beings are able to find the solution if the computer does not have it in its memory. And added to that if these pilots work in a perfectly organized crew they can do miracles.
Again, well done Captain.
What an amazing read, picked it up and put it down 7 hours later finished! That was 3 days ago and i can still not get the book and your outstanding commitment out of my mind, you are the epitome of a true professional and i hope one day on my frequent travels i hear your voice come across from the pointy end! Happy flying mate and cheers!!
Wow Rod. Thank you! I will pass on your thanks to all the crew members. Rich
Thank you for a fantastic book. I am not at all technically-minded, but this didn’t make ANY difference to me enjoying the read immensely. As someone else posted, this has made me want to fly ONLY Qantas forevermore 🙂 In fact, I was literally about to book flights with an opposition airline because they were $50 cheaper (!) but went straight to booking with Qantas!!! You, your other pilots and all your crew are actually heroes, even if you don’t like to admit that. I thoroughly recommend this book to even the most technologically-challenged women like myself. Well done and thank you, Richard.
Dear Patricia, Thank you for your very kind words. It’s a pleasure for me to be able to present the great story of the culmination of 91 years of knowledge, training, experience and (especially) teamwork that has been passed down from generation to generation in my airline, and how this sometimes reaps “dividends”. It’s a privilege to be the caretaker for our spirit and service and I am so grateful for your acknowledgement of the same. Please contact me if you ever hear my name on a Qantas aircraft in future.
Wow! Thanks Richard!
All I can say is wow!!!!!!
A great book very well written. Caters to non technical people like me.
You brought out the entire experience in such a real visual way that I relived all those moments encountered by you and your crew.
You certainly also have a great asset in your wife.
Happy days and god bless.
Shanthi Newcombe Halliwell
As someone with a fascination for aviation, I found the book to be a “can’t put it down” read, and finished it very quickly. Extremely well written, and a true example of strong leadership and teamwork.Highly recommended to everyone.
I am in awe of the electronics in the Airbus, and how it all works. I gather from the book that in any other aircraft that is not “fly by wire” that it would have been almost impossible to recover from this situation, so there is due credit to Airbus for the capacity of the computer systems to assist with the pilot workload.
Richard, I would say one thing which has not been emphasised in any of your interviews or in the book. You are truly a humble hero, and through your experience, and the brilliant work of the other pilots and crew, you did save 469 souls. What has not been said is that you also have saved at least another 2000 people from the trauma of losing a husband, wife, son, daughter, etc. This could have been a catastrophe of the highest order, far larger than the Black Saturday bushfires. Thanks to brilliant airmanship, this was averted.
I wish you and your family health and happiness for the future
The one burning question I have after reading the book is if Richard is OK. For someone who is absolutely committed to the responsibility of keeping control and to relentlessly fight to keep it for hours it can’t be easy.
Are you still flying?
I have had nothing like this, but I have got closed in by weather as a VFR and been miles out to sea at night on a yacht in a storm with things breaking and no electrics.
I doubt anyone will ever be able to fault what you did. I am sure your flight will save many lives in the future, not just the ones on QF32.
It sounds like you perfectly set yourself up for a masterful landing. I could just see those wheels arresting their descent as you pitched down slightly just before touching down.
I still hear in my mind those words of aviate, navigate and communicate and FMOST from my instructors, one of which I believe was the first woman captain on Qantas (at least since the introduction of the 747).
When I see people on the roads losing it and getting angry I realise I have lived in another world.
David you write so masterfully – you should write a book!
Yes I returned to normal flying duties four months after the QF32 flight of 4 Nov 2010.
Good to hear. The book is on the list.
A good read. Glad you were able to tell the tale.
Great Read, I’m currently flying helicopters full time and 27 years of age. Sometimes I do consider switching to fixed wing. Would love to fly an a380. Might be too old already to make the switch.
Inspirational read. Cheers Nathan
Come on Nathan, You are never too old to switch and start any new venture! Colonel Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken at the age of 65 with just $100! You are in control of your destiny, so go out and get it now for you never know when opportunities pass. If you want to fly an A380, then go and do what you have to do to get into that seat – NOW! Seize the day! Kindest regards and best wishes for a safe career. Fly safely! Rich
Hi Richard, I picked up your book while in Sydney airport on Monday, flying Qantas naturally. Could not put it down – brilliant read. What I enjoyed the most apart from the favorable outcome of QF32, was the complete transparency into your life to be read by unknowns like myself. Congratulations Richard on your success in life – well deserved, Andrew
Thank you Andrew for your kind comments. Yes it was revealing and risky to hang my life out “warts and all” for public scrutiny. I hope my experiences can motivate the youngest gerneration to follow their passion and strive for excellence. Best Regards Richard
My mother bought this book for my husband and myself. Being both aviation fiends – in his case an ex-aviation and -defence writer, in my case an ex-Qantas Captain’s daughter – we loved it. Neither of us could put it down; I finished reading it five minutes ago. Your description of events unfolding in the flight deck was absolutely riveting. My mother, also an aviation fiend, is champing at the bit to read it now. One of the things I loved about reading your book was the writing style; as if you were sitting in an armchair next to me talking to me. Although the book goes into technical details it’s so well-written that someone with little knowledge of physics can understand the whats and whys.
Your leadership and flying skills are amazing; I am in awe of the way you and your crew handled this emergency with level heads and lightning decisions. I shouldn’t be too surprised as I know how well Qantas trains its people and for that reason have always preferred to fly Qantas when I have the choice.
Thank you for having the courage to revisit a shattering flight and write about it. All the best to you and your family.
I am Cabin Crew for Virgin Australia and have just finished reading your book. I have not read a book in a long time but have recently taken an interest in commercial aviation incidents, and after seeing your book in a news-agency at Tullamarine Airport I had to buy it. What a great read, I could not put it down.
I will be recommending QF32 to all of my colleagues – Tech and Cabin crew alike. There are many valuable lessons in the book that will be of great use to me in future.
I have been looking in to entering the pointy-end of aircraft for a while now, and your book has motivated me to take the next step sooner rather than later.
Captain Richard, the book is an undoubtedly good read, but I was disappointed that a key sentence on page 322 had a typo and maybe lost its impact. The last sentence of the second para on P322… “The third significant piece travelled back … holed the forward wing spare …. “.
I am presuming you meant it holed the forward wing SPAR. To only mention this in a single sentence & with a typo at that seems to make light of the significance of this damage. You spend a lot of time on the degradation to the various systems and you would not have known the extent of the structural damage at the time, but the reader is left wondering what margin remained concerning the wing structure itself. All the best, Ian
Thanks for your comments Ian. The spelling error has already been highlighted in the corrections page. I would have loved to dissect the damage for the engineering literate, but this complicated process would have alienated 90% of QF32’s audience. I am pleased and impressed that you have read between the words. I might release a “Back Story” about the damage after the final ATSB report is released later this year.
I am ex RAN/CPL/MECIR and have a question on the damage.
The stall warning? What is your take on it? I could not get that from that part of the book. Were the stall/speed warnings that sounded during the final part of the approach either erroneous or faulty warnings, noting the fact that so many of the systems were compromised. The warnings clearly shook you as it would any pilot, but with so much effort to calculate then maintain your target speed in the often turbulent approach to any moist tropical airfield it must have been a fault thrown up?
I wonder what it must have been like to be in a scenario of not being 100 percent confident in your instruments?
The PTSD stuff was the most relevant as a ‘New veteran’ Timor Iraq Afghanistan and TPI…
Thank you for sharing this story of true moral and physical courage under the most testing of situations.
A Halter, LEUT RAN Rtd List
Tony, I had no reason to doubt the accuracy of the flight instruments, but I did doubt the aerodynamic performance of the aircraft. We had broken ailerons (thus no droop flap action, and severely (50%) degraded outer wing lift), spoilers, a hole in the wing, flapping surfaces (that damaged the boundary layers), and failed slats. All these damages had to be replicated on the right side of the aircraft if the machine would not roll to the left.
I was not confident about the maneuverability and controlability of the aircraft in the slow and configured position for landing. This is why we conducted about four control checks as the aircraft configuration was changed – each time confirming that the aircraft was controllable and suitable to continue and land.
By the time we commenced the approach, we had conducted a dress rehearsal of the landing in the final configuration and proved it safe to land. We did not know how much margin we had between the approach speed and the stall speed (we should have technically had about 27 knots), only that the aircraft was not stalling at height and that it was controllable.
So when the “SPEED SPEED” and “STALL STALL” warnings blasted out a total of three times below 1000′ on the final approach, they were absolutely unexpected and a shock, but because we had proved the aircraft safe to fly, I knew it was safe to continue and not sufficient reason to reject the landing, set full thrust, accelerate and climb to height (engines 1 & 4 would have probably over temp’ed if we had).
So I sped up about 1 knot to clear the “SPEED SPEED” warnings. When the “STALL STALL” warning went off, we were at about five feet and it was too late to do anything other than think “Brace yourself Nancy!” and push the stick full forward.
Thanks for your Questions.
I might be crazy but I actually feel safer flying now after reading this book. I would have been the panicking passenger. You are a legend Captain Champion de Crespigny. Nancy as well as Smithy, Amelia, Sully, indeed the Wright brothers would have been proud!
I’m an aspiring Aircraft Technician, hoping to join the RAAF, and after picking up the book, I couldn’t put it down! Having experience with A320s at Jetstar, I knew and understood some of the technical terms used and found the book to be both an insightful and highly enjoyable read, though I think I may have to read it again to absorb all the details.
Captain de Crespigny, thank you so much for providing your account of what happened! (:
Great read Rich. I guess you have a host of ex-RAAFies who know you. Love the way you describe so honestly the joy of a wife who is not just supportive, but smart and fun too – great team. Having been a whistle blower, I know the impacts of PTSD; they never totally disappear, but they’re under control. Thanks for the warts and all writing – wish that all pilots had your dedication and integrity. Hope you have a best seller on your hands. Best Wishes to you,, Coral and the family. Chris
A chilling account of events that could so easily have had a very different outcome – that it didn’t is surely testament to the efforts of an extraordinary crew, their exceptional leader and a truly magnificant aeroplane.
An inspiring read.
Thanks for answering my questions. I have just one more and then I promise I’ll leave you alone! I noticed in your book that you’re qualified and experienced as a B747-400 pilot, so my question is related to the “Jumbo”. What do you think would’ve been the outcome if you’d been piloting a non-fly-by-wire B747-400 instead of a fly-by-wire A380?
This is a good question but I cannot answer it.
I flew the 747s for 18 years. I knew the Jumbos inside out and wore them around my body like an exoskeleton. But you would have to bomb the Jumbo to see how it survived a similar explosion. Other pilots have given their firm views on this subject – but these are not my views.
Sorry to be so non-descript, but I just don’t know.
Richard, what an absolutely brilliant book!!!!
I brought this yesterday and was up to 1:00 am reading it from cover to cover. As a long time aviation enthusiast I was fascinated by your inside knowledge of the aviation industry, both military and civil. Your persistence, career drive and intellect are inspirational.
I watched the Four Corners version of the QF32 incident and that was great, but your blow by blow account in this book of how things unfolded was absolutely spellbinding. For anyone out there with even a passing interest in aviation this book is required reading.
I can’t wait to get my hands on your next installment – Big Jets.
Richard you are quite simply brilliant and you have every quality needed of a senior airline Captain and then some. You are a credit to Qantas and to Australia. You have achieved a hell of a lot in your career through sheer hard work and determination. You also played no small part in keeping all those aboard QF32 safe. Thank you.
As the two passengers seated nearest to the rear of the engine when it exploded on the QF32, we found this gripping tale of the exemplary management of this crisis event truly fascinating. We each read the text sitting on the edge of our seats, unable to put the book down – and we KNEW it had a hapy ending!
In the current climate, where public services tend to be more subject to criticism and negativity than praise, how refreshing to read such an honest and detailed reflective narrative of this prolonged critical event. We welcome this account in the interests of the continuing safety of the flying public everywhere, and the aviation industry overall. Amplifying and highlighting the areas which made a difference to us as individual passengers may potentially go some way to enabling others in the aviation industry to practice and maintain the expert skills that were evident in the behaviour and demeanour of so many of the Qantas crew and supporting services that day.
Well done ‘Team Rich and Coral’ for taking such an adverse experience and transforming it into an enthralling tale of expert knowledge, effective teamworking, decision making strategies, examples of situational responsiveness and the importance of effective communication networks – all of these elements having an impact on an enhanced level of care and comfort for us, as passengers.
You deserve all the positive accolades due to you as the lead pilot of this team – along with the background, experience and the highly coordinated team effort of your extrordinary crew. Your supportive and strong family network needs commendation too – after all, ‘they also serve who stand and wait‘.
Best wishes for the continued success of your book – and every good wish to each of you for the future.
Carrie and Derwyn
Rich, I was as surprised as you that our book club chose such a technical book for review. One of the ladies had heard your interview on ABC 612-4QR, and she presented the idea to the last meeting.
So you deserve full credit for its selection.
As an ex-SCC, I am very puzzled with the unexpected result of your route-check on page 334. It will obviously trigger a question to me from the ladies … a question I will need some help with from you. (Perhaps by email? I don’t want to spoil the plot of a sequel.)
That ABC interview also triggered another story that may please you. A non-pilot friend happened upon the broadcast while driving to Noosa. He wanted to ring me to make sure I was listening, but could not drag himself from the interview to his mobile phone. So he rang me when he reached his destination and i listened to it next day on the podcast.
Congratulations Richard for writing such a thrilling and educational book. The balance of story telling with technical background was excellent. Thank you also for your attitude and for going beyond the call of duty. Your are an inspiration and an excellent leader. Best wishes to you and your family.
Jonathan Smith c
Rich, I have enjoyed a 33-year career (1953-1986) flying jets (RAAF fighters, QF B-707 and B747-Classic).
Your QF32 was the first and only aviation book that I was able to read from cover-to-cover without once shouting at the book, “That’s not right!”
There are some erudite ladies in their senior years (including my wife) who constitute a local book-club.
They have chosen QF32 as the reading for the club’s November meeting; and I have been asked to address that meeting.
It will give me great pleasure to use your brilliant writing to extol the virtues of Qantas’s crew-training and safety philosophy … and the advantages to pax who are willing to pay a little more to enjoy premium airline operations standards.
You have even restored some of my fading faith in the Airbus flight-controls philosophy.
I never envisaged QF32 being the subject of a book club review! I never dreamed my rants of “half ball valves” and “threat and error management” would ever come under such erudite scrutiny! I’m closing my eyes and crossing my fingers that the “oracles” might take it easy on a mere pilot and accidental author. Best Regards, Rich
Richard, I’d be thrilled if you came to Coffs Harbour in NSW as I’d love to sit down for a chat with you. I’ve had a personal goal for a long time to gain my Private Pilot Licence (PPL) despite my hearing impairment (I have a cochlear implant, a.k.a. bionic ear). Ever since i was 4 or 5 I wanted to be a pilot in the RAAF (my uncle was an RAAF Officer at Richmond, Malaysia and Canberra) or with Qantas, but I’d sadly not pass the medical to gain entry to the RAAF. I actually have a dream to be the first hearing impaired person to fly solo around the world. Do you have any plans to come to Coffs Harbour?
Despite you living in one of the most wonderful locations in Australia, I have no plans to visit Coffs Harbour at the moment. I will however will keep your request in case the opportunity appears. My best wishes to you and good luck with your flying ambitions. Rich
Sounds good. I am thoroughly enjoying the book. I have a question for you though. On page 279 of QF32 there are two pictures. My question is in regard to the bottom picture showing you and Matt Hicks in the A380 cockpit in March 2011. Just to the left of Matt’s left hand is a white cube-shaped item with red on the left side and yellow on the top. Can you tell me what this item is? I thought I knew most items in the A380 cockpit, but don’t rcall having seen this before.
Richard answers: Well noticed. It’s a device to lock the FLAPS lever in one position. These locking devices are used during maintenance activities to prevent inadvertent activation of high powered systems (brakes, flight controls, hydraulics …)
Nice job Captain.
I personnaly, as a pilot in the French Naval Aviation ditched my helicopter in 1973 and all members of my crew survived, by miracle. Your book reminds me of the steps I had to face during the following months, without any assistance in this old time.
Later, as an older pilot commanding the helicopter training squadron in the French Navy I put a heavy stress on all my instructors on the necessity to teach to our trainees how to fly as a perfectly organized crew on the flying deck: one pilot in command with a disciplined and cooperative co-pilot. Your book reminds me again how I was right, your team on the flight-deck worked perfectly during the QF32 mishap.
Please, Captain, accept my sincere congratulations.
Jean-Claude we understand each other very well. In one paragraph you have articulated your attitudes regarding teamwork and stress, the same attitudes that took me 400 pages to explain in my book.
Dedicated aviators are a “Band of Brothers” and I know you stand besides me in being proud to hold up the reputations for our fellow airmen past and present.
Thank you for your thoughts.
Rich, I fully agree and I appreciate your compliment.
I never forgot my accident as I ditched my helicopter upside down, flying totally inverted, the rotor hitting the water first, without tailrotor (lost) and at full power to avoid colliding the boat who had just cut my tail with his mast while I was hovering. We escaped at about 15 meters depth, no flotation devices in this old time. It took me months to recover and I even requested my commanding officer to stop me flying two months later after I had done in flight a very dangerous mistake and five weeks later I requested him again to put me back on a flight deck, I had eventually gone through the hard process of recovering confidence.
Your book is excellent, every word true and should be in the library of all flying schools.
Sincere congratulations again to you and your fellow Qantas pilots.
I’ve been flying on QF flights by choice for many years and it usually has been because the safety record is pretty good. When the QF32 incident happened, I had no concerns that it was Pilot Error and assumed that it was a mechanical failure. None of this, BTW affected my decisions to continue flying on QF.
In reading the book, I’m amazed at how you and the crew managed to get through what seems like about an hour or so of pure hell, when there was every chance that the airplane, could have exploded in the sky.
It’s obvious that your background and training and inherent skill in understanding how these complex machines work , played a pivotal part in keeping the plane in the sky. What amazes me and probably always will is how you and the flight crew kept it together and were able to function as you did. Congratulations, as I’m sure you will be remembered for a very long time.
Thank you Jim. You are very very kind. Rich
What an incredible story! Finished the book in 2 days. This is one book that is to be treasured, especially when it has your autograph on it 🙂
Thank you, Captain de Crespigny for providing some insight of what happened on the aircraft, and the preparation and training you did prior to the incident. The teamwork between all crew members were exemplary, and that’s something we all can learn from.
Thank you once again!
I finished QF32 last night. Couldn’t put it down. The way you managed to describe the continual barrage of alarms, checklists and crises and how the crew coped (cockpit and cabin) was exceptional and it brought back my old CFI’s description of commercial air transport as hours of boredom punctuated by seconds of terror.
The professionalism displayed under workloads that I hope I never have to experience is testament to your training, love of flying and deep understanding of the machinery of which you’re in charge.
One hopes that despite the advances in computerisation and automation in the cockpit never take away the pilot’s need and desire to ‘aviate’.
A truly unbelievable story told with brilliant expertise. It should be on the required reading list for every pilot.
As a lightsport pilot I found it a cracking read, Richard. Just the thought of a 160kt flare gives mw the willies! Couldn’t put the book down. A helluva list of downwind checks involved in that landing!
Bast wishes to you and the wonderful Qantas crews.
I have just read the book. I simply could not stop reading it. A fantastic story of true team work and professionalism to all crew members. Thank you for sharing the details of the flight in such an open and honest account including the psychological trauma after the event. As a sufferer of PTSD I could feel for you Captain De Crespigny. Again great work to all team members. Regards Steve
A great read about professional piloting and CRM under extreme circumstances. Well done Richard and the crew.
Thank you Peter for your kind words. Rich
I read the book over 2 nights (finishing the 2nd night at 3.30am, I couldn’t put it down) and as a pilot whom recently gained a CPL I think it is almost mandatory reading on how to be the pilot the general public expect us to be.
thanks for taking the time to write it and i look forward to Big Jets.
A champion indeed! Amazing example of leadership, human factors and crew resource management at its best. Why though did the check captain fail him for this flight?! Great read. Loved it. Couldn’t put it down. Thank you!
Captain de Crespigny,
2.5ft/sec and <5secs from 50'? Long odds, there.
You have grounds to contest 'failing' the check flight.
What a fantastic book. I only bought it on Friday and have just finished it tonight (Sunday) … couldn’t put it down. I’ve never read a book in such a short time before. An inspiring read … congratulations.
Thank you for your kind words Brett. I am sure your wife is pleased to have you back in the family! Rich
I’m not a big reader but I read this book in two days which is 2 weeks faster than I normally do. Great reading gave me a great understanding on what happen and the importance of team work. It showed the true Australian spirit you find in people in this great country, when a crisis happens the true Australian team work comes in well done Richard and your crew.
Thank you Terry. We are getting wonderful feedback from around the world and from all readers (men, women and children as young as 13). It was a massive effort to compile this book so your comments are very much appreciated. Rich
Couldn’t put it down – have just finished it after a lunctime start – fantastic
Have just startred reading today.
Saw Graeme Cant mentioned on p99 and thought I should let you know I taught him to fly gliders cross copuntry at Waikerie a few years ago, including a memorable “outlanding” in a Duo Discus into a wheat paddock 30 km from the airfield.
Thank you for your incredibley fast service . I was thrilled to recieve my personally signed book thank you and good luck . Jeannie Foster