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Interim No.1


Interim Factual report No.1 released 6 March 2009

At 0932 local time (0132 UTC) on 7 October 2008, an Airbus A330-303 aircraft, registered VH-QPA, departed Singapore on a scheduled passenger transport service to Perth, Australia. On board the aircraft (operating as flight number QF72) were 303 passengers, nine cabin crew and three flight crew. At 1240:28, while the aircraft was cruising at 37,000 ft, the autopilot disconnected. From about the same time there were various aircraft system failure indications. At 1242:27, while the crew was evaluating the situation, the aircraft abruptly pitched nose-down. The aircraft reached a maximum pitch angle of about 8.4 degrees nose-down, and descended 650 ft during the event. After returning the aircraft to 37,000 ft, the crew commenced actions to deal with multiple failure messages. At 1245:08, the aircraft commenced a second uncommanded pitch-down event. The aircraft reached a maximum pitch angle of about 3.5 degrees nose-down, and descended about 400 ft during this second event.

At 1249, the crew made a PAN urgency broadcast to air traffic control, and requested a clearance to divert to and track direct to Learmonth. At 1254, after receiving advice from the cabin of several serious injuries, the crew declared a MAYDAY. The aircraft subsequently landed at Learmonth at 1350.

One flight attendant and 11 passengers were seriously injured and many others experienced less serious injuries. Most of the injuries involved passengers who were seated without their seatbelts fastened or were standing. As there were serious injuries, the occurrence constituted an accident.

The investigation to date has identified two significant safety factors related to the pitch-down movements. Firstly, immediately prior to the autopilot disconnect, one of the air data inertial reference units (ADIRUs) started providing erroneous data (spikes) on many parameters to other aircraft systems. The other two ADIRUs continued to function correctly. Secondly, some of the spikes in angle of attack data were not filtered by the flight control computers, and the computers subsequently commanded the pitch-down movements.

Two other occurrences have been identified involving similar anomalous ADIRU behaviour, but in neither case was there an in-flight upset.

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