Being on board the A380 that day was an amazing experience in so many ways.
I have always been fascinated with aircraft and I was excited to see what the biggest jet on the planet was like. Once we had taken off for the first leg of the flight from London to Sydney, I realised how quiet and smooth it was despite its four engines and grand size. I happily started watching a movie, enjoying the long flight.
I was really happy I was on board, leaving Sweden with my friend Fredrika to go on a working holiday in Australia, a trip that we had been excited to do and planning for months.
I had a window seat behind the left side wing when we took off from Singapore.
A few minutes into the flight, I was looking out the window when I heard a loud bang, and then saw flames coming out from the inner engine. This was shortly followed by another bang, as well as lots of black smoke from the exploding engine.
At that moment I was terrified, knowing there was fuel in the wings and fire in the engine, I quickly concluded that it wasn’t good at all. I was actually almost certain I would never see my family or my friends again.
During the first minutes I thought about all the people in my life that mean the world to me and I mentally told them I loved them soo much. One of my dear friends was sitting next to me, my friend Fredrika, and she was trying to calm me down all that time we spent in the air with an engine on fire.
Despite the situation there was no chaos among the passengers. People were talking to each other about what just happened, but there was no obvious fear. I was really scared in the beginning, but when the flight crew started talking to us I began hoping we might make it back to the ground after all.
After what felt like an eternity we finally made an emergency landing. The crew was very kind to us and definitely helped in calming us all down. That was when I quit thinking that I was going to die. It was a bumpy ride down the runway but when we had stopped, all of the passengers started clapping and we were shouting words of relief.
After a long time during which we had to stay in the aircraft, we walked out of the aircraft and down the stairs to the waiting bus. What I remember the most now from this moment is when I turned around and looked back at this massive and beautiful aircraft. It was in one piece and I was alive!
We spent a long time in the passenger lounge at Changi airport after the incident. Fredrika and I were trying to get some sleep when a girl named Maja started talking to us. She had seen the blue hoodie that I was wearing, a sign that I was a Swedish student. Maja was alone and so the three of us stayed together in the same hotel room in Singapore that night. It was funny that she is the same age as Fredrika and me and had grown up in a city very close to our home town in Sweden. So that is yet another proof of how small this world actually is.
We made it to Sydney one day later after flying in a Boeing 747. That flight the next day was a surreal and strange experience for us and we were so happy to have finally arrived in Australia. We had the best time ever in Australia for the six months that followed, made even better by sharing our great experiences with our new found friend Maja.
We are back in Sweden now, three students in three different cities and we don’t know where our lives will take us. But we will forever share and be tied together by this extraordinary experience.
For me personally, I think the QF32 incident has been been both the worst and the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life. It was the worst because I will never forget the feeling of actually thinking – for a relatively long time – that I was going to die and never see my family or friends again. I cannot describe in words what that felt like.
However the counter side is that the QF32 experience was also the best thing that has ever happened to me – because I now realise and appreciate so many things about myself, my life, family and friends.
I now see life in a different way. I now enjoy living so much more than I did before. I will always remember to be grateful for everything that I have in life and I carry these experiences with me every day.
I honestly don’t think I would have had such a great time in Australia if this had not happened.
Thank you for letting me share my story. Writing about this experience is therapy for me, especially writing to you, someone who understands.
[Editor’s Note 1]: Johanna is currently undertaking her first year’s studies of a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering. She is enjoying the course and would love to follow a career in the aviation industry.
[Editor’s Note 2]: We hope to publish Fredrika’s story shortly.