Australian Qantas Flight ‘Nosedives’ for 10 Seconds Over the Pacific Ocean

By Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
June 14, 2018 Updated: June 14, 2018

Passengers on a flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne have recalled the terrifying moment when their Qantas flight “nosedived” for about 10 seconds.

Hundreds of passengers feared for their lives after their plane, an A380, experienced a sudden drop over the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, June 10.

Passenger Janelle Wilson told The Australian the plane was “three quarters” full and entered a sudden “free fall nosedive … a direct decline towards the ocean” around two hours into the flight.

“It was between one and a half and two hours after we left LA and all of a sudden the plane went through a violent turbulence and then completely up-ended and we were nose­diving,” she recalled.

Australian television presenter Eddie McGuire, who was on board the flight, said the incident had lasted around 10 seconds.

“It did have that feeling of, you know when you go over the top of a rollercoaster and you just get a little bit of a feeling, and the plane did bank to port, to the left-hand side, a little bit,” he told Channel 9.

“But it steadied up after about 10 seconds, and I have to say that what the most reassuring part of the situation was that the Qantas pilot came on immediately and said we’d gone into the back of the turbulence of the Sydney plane.”

Qantas Chief Technical Pilot Alex Passerini said the A380 was flying behind another Qantas plane bound for Sydney.

“The trailing airplane, the Qantas 94, encountered some wake turbulence from the Qantas 12, and that caused a jolt to the airplane for a short period of time,” Passerini explained.

“The airplane climbed maybe 100 feet or so and descended back to its cruising altitude, and the captain took action to avoid the further exposure to the wake vortex.”

Wake turbulence is a disturbance in the atmosphere that forms behind an aircraft as it passes through the air, and air traffic control requires more spacing behind larger jets like the A380 in an attempt to avoid the phenomenon. Incidents are uncommon and typically involve a larger jet and a smaller aircraft rather than two super-jumbos.

Qantas said it has notified the Australian Transport Safety Bureau of the incident. It confirmed that it had also reported the incident to the manufacturer. No passengers were injured and there was no aircraft damage from the incident.

In January 2017, wake turbulence behind an Emirates A380 sent a business jet into an uncontrolled descent, with the smaller airplane losing nearly 9,000 feet of altitude before the crew was able to gain control, according to an interim report by German investigators.

Reuters contributed to this report

Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.