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Wed, Sep 22, 2010

Qantas Passengers, Crew Sue Over Sudden Loss Of Altitude

Airbus And Northrop Grumman Named In Lawsuit

An Australian lawyer has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Airbus and Northrop Grumman. The suit was filed on behalf of 76 of the passengers and crew who were aboard a Qantas Airbus A330-300 in 2008 which twice dived steeply during flight, injuring several of those on board. The pilot of the aircraft executed a successful emergency landing at a remote Australian Air Force base.

The international news service AFP reports that attorney Floyd Wisner named Northrop Grumman in the suit because it made a data unit on the plane. He declined to put a dollar estimate on compensation, but said it could range from the low six figures to millions per person, depending on the injuries, both physical and psychological.

The group Wisner is representing consist of passengers from Australia, Britain, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and India. The three Qantas pilots are also among those seeking damages. The aircraft was at FL370 enroute to Perth from Singapore when the autopilot reportedly disengaged and the plane entered a steep dive, losing about 650 feet and tossing people and loose items through the cabin. After the pilot recovered his altitude, a second incident caused the aircraft to dive 400 feet. The incidents injured more than 100 people, who sustained broken ribs, spinal fractures, and other injuries. Wisner said people and food carts flew through the air, hitting the ceiling and the overhead luggage bins before eventually falling back onto the seats and floor of the airplane.

Wisner said the pilot, whom he describes as a former U.S. Navy "Top Gun" aviator, has not flown since the incident. The pilot said the aircraft "went out of control" and the computer would not give him control of the airplane.

Wisner said if the claims are not settled, he expects to be in court in the United States within two years. Qantas called the event "exceptionally rare." The Australian Transportation Safety Bureau has not yet released its final report on the incident. A spokesman told AFP in a statement that the airline had settled several claims, but it would also consider any new claims made in relation to the incident.

FMI: www.qantas.com, www.atsb.gov.au

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