5th Anniversary – QF32

Today, 4th November 2015 marks the 5th Anniversary of the QF32 event.

Journey to the future (Painting by Coplu http://Coplu.com)

Journey to the future (Painting by Coplu http://Coplu.com)

Good News

Photo: Carolyn Jones

Photo: Carolyn Jones

QF32 is a story of team excellence, where eight teams pooled their knowledge, training, experience working in intrepid teams to overcome a black swan event.

I again wish to thank the 8 teams of more than 1,000 people who helped deliver 469 passengers and crew home to their loved ones.   The teams include:

  1. the 5 pilots,
  2. the 24 cabin crew,
  3. Singapore Air Traffic Control,
  4. Singapore Police,
  5. Singapore Rescue and Fire Fighting Services,
  6. Singapore and Qantas Ground Staff,
  7. Qantas Crisis Centre (hundreds in four tiers), and
  8. the 440 passengers.

Stories Five Years later …

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau writes: “Five years on:  how the QF32 investigation improved safety

I have pleasure in publishing three stories from three separate groups of people who were drawn into the event.

QF32 by Jaak de Koninck

QF32 by Jaak de Koninck

Bill Freer

Adrian Freer

Story 1  – by Adrian, Maria Freer – QF32 Passengers – United Kingdom

It’s been 5 years – how time flies (excuse the pun) but QF32 is forever in our thoughts.

There’s not many days when I don’t think about the QF32 incident.  It will stay with us for the rest of our lives.  What the captain and crew did that day to bring us all home safely is nothing short of a miracle.

Time has moved on but Maria and I will always owe the crews of QF32 for keeping us safe .   We look forward to meeting you all and having a chat over beers we owe you.  Maybe then we can draw a line under it and move forward.

Maria Freer

Maria Freer

We think of ourselves as fortunate to survive an incident that only a select few people in the world experience and few survive, so I guess it wasn’t our time to go.

Thanks again to Richard and to all the QF32 teams.  Without you I’m sure it would have been a different outcome and this message wouldn’t have been written.

(Adrian’s and Maria’s two children Luca and Leo were also on board QF32)

Story 2 – by Carolyn and Derwyn Jones – QF32 Passengers – United Kingdom

The odds were stacked against us.  We should not be here.

Carolyn and Derwyn Jones

Carolyn and Derwyn Jones

The success of the QF32 endeavour has meant a lot to us personally.  Five years on from the event we have seen our children mature and achieve further professional success – our grandchildren grow and flourish.  We have led a rich and fulfilling life during these years.  The incident has motivated us to maximise every moment of the ‘More Time’ that we had been granted – not least by travelling to over 20 different countries in the last five years.

(Photo: Kjell Ljungqvist)

(Photo: Kjell Ljungqvist)

We fully appreciated the difficulties being addressed by the QF32 pilot and cabin crew teams (on our behalf), only incrementally and sometime after the episode.   Five years later, we now find ourselves in a pivotal position to explain the experience from our perspective.    As passengers who witnessed the entirety of the prolonged crisis,  we have the privilege to describe these series of serendipitous incidents.

Over the past five years we have endeavoured to raise awareness of the exemplary management of this prolonged critical event.  These efforts culminated in us initiating the Facebook group  ‘QF32 – publish globally’ three months ago with the intention of leading up to today’s 5th anniversary of QF32.  We created this Facebook group for two significant reasons: 

  • Firstly, we felt it was important to raise global awareness of the quality of crisis management that was involved in this venture.  In this way, at a general level, the flying public would then be able to more fully appreciate the importance of the need for quality training and effective leadership in aviation.  We felt this was a  particularly important issue in this age of the proliferation of budget airlines, and the myriad of cost cutting measures which are so frequently being introduced within the public sector.
  • Secondly, and even more importantly, we make the case to the new publishing company ‘Informa’  to produce QF32 in an academic format to document and enhance the already high standards achieved in aviation safety.  One of the ways this could be accomplished is in the form of a qualitative case study narrative.  A presentation of this kind would have the potential to benefit not only students and professionals within the aviation industry, but it could also assist others in high risk and dynamic industries who face similar challenges.  After all,  this text  was written by an expert witness – the lead pilot at the time – and it graphically demonstrates the value of the human (ingenuity and teamwork) and corporate (safety, risk and leadership)  factors that underpin safety in aviation.
QF32 passengers Carolyn & Derwyn Jones

QF32 passengers Carolyn & Derwyn Jones

Derwyn Jones

Derwyn Jones

The media is replete with dramatic accounts of failures and disasters worldwide.  However a lot more could be learned from examining the the issues associated with success.  These are the elements of resilience that were managed so brilliantly on board QF32.  These are also the keys to our success for our personal and corporate lives.

So let’s celebrate and amplify the  successes of QF32  by spreading the QF32 story world wide.   We call upon ‘Informa’ to publish QF32  for the academic industry as a reference text on knowledge, experience and risk-crisis management.   You will have the support, energy and enthusiasm of over 2,000 members of our Facebook group ‘QF32 – publish globally’.

Publishing QF32 in Europe and the USA would be the best way to honour the endeavours of the pilots and cabin crew of QF32,  and the collaborative efforts of over 1,000 personnel from many countries who facilitated our safe return to Changi Airport on November 4th 2010.

First stop on Jossie Harris' honeymoon - the A380 cockpit (VH-OQD) (26Aug15)

First stop on Jossie Harris’ honeymoon – the A380 cockpit (VH-OQD) (26Aug15)

Story 3 – by Kelly Teo – Air Traffic Controller – Singapore

I was the tower controller handling your final approach back into Changi on that fateful day. Reading QF32 brought back so many memories.

No amount of Sim training for emergencies can ever prepare a controller for an emergency like QF32. On that day, while preparing for your approach, no one knew what to expect.

As the only approach rated controller in the tower that day, I was tasked to man the runway frequency when you were coming in to land. All the emergency procedures and RT were running through my head when I cleared you to land on long finals. You asked for a 20 miles final and as a tower controller, I knew I had to reassure you that all the assistance you need upon landing are all ready.

I can never forget how you told the firemen: “Qantas gives you permission to spray water into our engine to shut it down”. Thank you for a valuable lesson in handling this sort of emergency. Whenever I do on job training with a trainee, I will always relate this incident and your book to them.

Highest Respect for Airbus and (You’ve Gotta Love) the A380

(Courtesy Richard de Crespigny)

I have the highest respect for Airbus.   The Airbus A300 in 1974 was Airbus’ first aircraft and the world’s first twin-engine widebody jet in commercial service.  Today, just 41 years later, Airbus has grown to become one of the world’s best airline manufacturers.

The A380 continues to be a passenger magnet:

  • London Heathrow

    London Heathrow (Photo RDC)

    The A380 fleet has carried more than 100 million passengers in more than 2 million flying hours on more than 270,000 revenue flights.  (Interesting, that’s an average sector length of just 7.4 hours)

  • Passengers I meet during my walks through the cabin love the smooth ride and overwhelming sense of calm that pervades the cabin.   The ride in our A380 seats during the cruise is no different to your seat in your lounge room at home.
  • Click here to view the LoveA380 web site where you can tour the A380 and review passenger’s comments.
  • Passengers are especially thrilled to fly in VH-OQA – Nancy-Bird Walton.
  • I continue to update my blog about the A380, Storm Petrels and Sweet Spots
London morning December 2014 (Photo RDC)

London morning December 2014 (Photo RDC)

Highest Respect For Rolls-Royce


Trent 900 Fan hub, cone removed, looking back inside and down through the N1 hollow (two shafts spline joined) shaft that transmits 82,500 shaft horsepower at 2,900 rpm from the 3 stage low pressure turbine to the fan (Photo RDC)

Trent 900 High Pressure Turbine Blade (Photo Courtesy Rolls-Royce)

One of the 70 Trent 900 High Pressure Turbine Blades that mount to the High Pressure Turbine disk. Each blade extracts 900 hp from exhaust flow. 63,000 ph around the 1 metre diameter, 160 kg, 8,300 rpm disk. (Photo Courtesy Rolls-Royce)

I maintain the highest respect for Rolls-Royce.  I have toured the Trent 900 manufacturing plants in Derby (UK) and Singapore.  I have seen the technology, dedication and care that goes into making the most complex components on the Airbus A380 and A350.

Congratulations to Rolls-Royce for  designing, building and maintaining the most remarkable engines in the automotive, military, maritime and aviation industries for over 111 years.

I will write more about Rolls-Royce technologies in future posts.

(Courtesy Richard de Crespigny)

43 nm (80km) left of track at 40,000 feet avoiding thunderstorms (Photo RDC)

Our four brains (RDC)

Our four brains (RDC)


Some passengers on board QF32 may have suffered some form of stress.   Many have addressed and resolved their issues.  I wrote in my book “QF32” how I resolved my stresses.

My next book (due 2016 ) includes chapters on neuroscience, the mind, the startle effect and post traumatic stress (PTS).

I remain available to meet passengers and to help them in whatever way possible.    Contact me below if you have outstanding questions or if you need my help.

QF32 Passenger Johanna Friis

QF32 Passenger Johanna Friis

Other News

Qantas Uniform 1940s (Photo RDC)

Qantas Uniform 1940s (Photo RDC)

Here is last year’s blog on the 4th Anniversary of the QF32 event.

Qantas celebrates its 95th anniversary on the 16th November.   This will be a grand event with lots of celebrations.   The celebrations have already started with a charity flight to Longreach in Qantas’ 737 ‘Retro Roo’


I have great pleasure to continue my patronage to Disabled Wintersport Australia and other organisations.  We have exciting plans for 2016, so come and join us!

2013 IPC World Cup Thredbo (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

More Stories

There are still many stories to tell about the QF32 event.  I will publish more:

  • Passenger “back stories”,
  • Additional information that the publisher removed from my QF32 book, and
  • Other stories relevant to the event.
Every pilot's delight. (Courtesy Richard de Crespigny)

Every pilot’s delight. (Photo RDC)


I am head down working on a tight deadline to finish my next book that has the working title “Phoenix“.   My book “QF32” explained what happened on the 4th November 2010.  Phoenix will explain HOW and WHY behind QF32 and resilience in general.    It will be published in late 2016.    Stay tuned ….


Most of the QF32 crew

Most of the QF32 crew

Thank You!


The “Wind beneath my wings”

Thank you again to the 1,000 people who helped 469 passengers and crew return home.  This was a massive team effort, we studied and trained for this, we practiced for this.

The QF32 story – it’s not about me as the pilot in command of QF32,  the pilots, the cabin crew or even my airline.    It’s a story of resilience and team excellence where 8 teams pooled the industry’s knowledge, training, experience and worked together to survive a Black Swan Event.  It’s about aviation that for the last 110 years has shared their knowledge and experience to made aviation safer for the travelling public.

We should all feel proud.

Coral and I send you our best wishes.


The team

The team




  1. Very interesting article about what must have been a very traumatic scary experience with lifelong after effects and flashbacks. The coolness of the crew under such pressure was admirable and must have the highest praise.

  2. Peter Finlay · · Reply

    Hi Richard,

    I recently flew from Sydney to Dubai and on to London and return in Qantas A380s.

    We were seated forward of the entrance door. I was surprised by the considerable amount of vertical movement in response to turbulence on climb-out and when we crossed the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).

    Aside from one previous flight in a smaller airliner where heavy weather caused the a/c to rise and fall a fair bit, this was the harshest ride I have experienced.

    This was quite contrary to what I would have expected from such a large a/c and its sophisticated control systems. In addition, while seated in the most forward position, a lateral oscillation of the airframe was quite disturbing.

    Could you explain why these movements were felt please?

    1. Peter, the aircraft responds to wind changes and turbulence just like any other aircraft, except:

      • The A380 at its 575 max tkeoff weight has considerabel inertia, to it will not be tossed around as much as other aircraft.
      • The fly-by-wire flight controls move surfaces as required to prevent; secondary effects of flight controls, wings waving, wings vibrating, engines nodding, fuselage twisting, fuselage torquing, fuselage bending, harmonic vibrations, and tail oscillations.

        That’s an amazing list of features. The flight control laws that control these oscillations (including the Dance of the Ailerons), and many other protections (i.e. stall, overspeed, high alpha, high attitude, phugoids) are written into the core of the logic of the flight control computers.

      If you were being bumped around in turbulence in an A380, then it woudl have been orders of magnitude worse in smaller and older technology aircraft.

      Best rich

  3. christel cowdrey · · Reply


    Simply defined, super humans answer to the following attributes – Herculean, Heroic, Valiant, Prodigious, Phenomenal and possessing of an extraordinary level of intelligence, efficiency and strength.
    These defining characteristics blew through any terror barrier that may have been present in the Captain of QF32, November 2010.

    Are these super human traits nature or nurture?

    Winston Churchill, captured by Jan Christian Smuts after a derailed train, found himself vulnerable and unprepared for capture, a prisoner of circumstance.

    Churchill was quoted as saying, “Soldiers In War, should not be presented with problems that they have not been trained for in Peace”, which brings us to the Military background of Captain Richard Champion De Crespigny.

    On the understanding that we are mere mortals all, Pilots may be held responsible for errors in aviation calamities; QF32 expounds the facts; on that day, the failure was technical and the human ‘frailty’ vanquished and any impending disaster was overwhelmed.

    5 years ago, 469 souls placed themselves in the hands of an experienced and diligent Crew and their Captain and his Co-Pilots; present also were two ‘Check Pilots’, observing the decisions of the Master at the helm.

    The challenges the Air Bus confronted are well documented; indeed the passengers were able to view the obliteration of their Vessel on their screens, available throughout their flight.

    One wonders then, at the calm bestowed upon them by their Senior Officer.
    In the absence of panic and with a comforting disposition and poise, delivered by his Crew (unable to communicate with their Captain), the team were held in high regard by the passengers. In laconic state, despite their heart thumping awareness of the gravity, all were respectful of the hierarchy.

    Of course, none other than the Insane save Clark Kent and his comic strip compatriots, might consider themselves super human but, during those vital 110 minutes, the Captain, in the great adversity that was this wretchedness, when all were beyond advice, when all perhaps teetered on the abyss that could end and extinguish their souls; when passengers bargained with God, such a super power held the Captain’s focus, blowing through that terror barrier.

    Captain De Crespigny’s personal mission “is simply to return those on board, having lodged their faith in me, to their families at home, across the dinner table”.
    He succeeded.

    All suggestions from his loyal team, the following of protocol, add two Check Pilots, this collaboration, got them just ‘so far’.

    Military pilots are trained for greater speed –Jets fly at 1200 mph, as opposed to Civilian aircraft, flying at the speed of sound, 760 mph approximately.

    The intense study of Advanced Ballistic Theory, the understanding of potential catastrophe in war, sets the Military Pilot apart. Flight Theory is stepped up a notch (or many more), they ‘Push The Envelope’, taking the plane beyond all lines of demarcation.

    With this in mind and with Captain Rich’s focus on returning all to safety, his actions were supported by his extreme training; survival programs, such as RAAF Combat Survival Courses, 2 weeks in tropical rain forests, oceans, Air Safety Investigators Courses, Aerospace Physiology Courses etc.

    One naturally notices the self-deprecating stance from the Captain; my own suspicion is that he would assert that this was pure training and certainly not Super Hero or Genius.

    The decisions that saved the lives of all were executed with precision; his actions were catalytic, superseding the aircraft’s limitations and landing his charges in tact.

    This event has united many of the passengers and has proved empowering and unifying for all those on board and in the Industry.

    We understand ‘Synergy’ to be, the Whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
    In the case of QF32, survival is dedicated to a man, who ‘in extremis’, may have been excused had all been lost.

    Today there is still triumph in the hearts for all those passengers who keep in contact with their Captain, the contrast they faced has ultimately changed and enriched their lives; they live in gratitude.

    QF32, as Neil Armstrong said, was brought “safely back to earth after encountering one of the most catastrophic in-flight disasters in aviation history” by one senior at the helm, Richard De Crespigny.


    Christel Holst-Sande Cowdrey
    November 2015

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: