At this stage the general public and the investigators from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau know as much about the QF 72 emergency over WA yesterday as each other. Which is next to nothing in terms of the reasons.
However the ATSB will soon start to get the hard facts together. The cockpit voice recorder and data recorder will tell them what was happening for the pilots when the ‘sudden altitude change’ initially referred to by Qantas occurred.
It will also tell them how fast the event happened, and how far the aircraft dropped.
The clues overnight are confusing. If the interval between the declaration of ‘Mayday’ by the pilots and touch down at Learmonth really was only nine minutes this looks like they had to regain control of the Airbus A330 under exceptionally adverse conditions.
Are there clues in the words used, or not used, by Qantas and the local authorities at Learmonth?
Maybe. Qantas has referred to a sudden change in altitude, but not as yet referred to clear air turbulence. The Learmonth police have referred to a ‘systems failure’. Where did they hear those words, or what caused them to use them.
Passengers have referred to abruptness of the emergency, and people being thrown up against the ceiling, which would mean there was a period of negative G which is often associated with aircraft caught in severe down drafts and is one of many reasons why you are supposed to keep your seat belt loosely fastened throughout a flight. One passenger is reported as saying that ‘the lights went out’ followed by as loud bang and mayhem.
I have a hunch there will be more from the ATSB sooner rather than later.