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The Day We Thought a Qantas A380 Crashed

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Qantas A380

I received a disturbing phone call from a colleague a few hours ago. He had caught the tail end of a news bulletin suggesting that Qantas debris had washed up onto a Beach in Batam (Indonesia). Traditional news services failed me, so I turned to the one place that offers immediate information – Twitter. As usual, the Twitter stream was littered with speculation, rumour and innuendo, but it did confirm that some incident had taken place.

It turned out that a Qantas Airbus A380 Flight QF32, carrying 433 passengers and 26 crew, had suffered an uncontained engine failure about 15 minutes after departing Singapore’s Changi Airport. The damage ejected debris over an area near Batam in Western Indonesia . One large component of debris carrying the Qantas logo was responsible for fueling initial speculation that the aircraft was destroyed.

The Day We Thought a Qantas A380 Crashed

An early report of QF32 from Reuters

As usual, and not unlike US Air Flight 1549 , Twitter proved itself as the most immediate means of obtaining real-time information with a stream of images from passengers quickly uploaded to Twitpic and other similar services.

The Day We Thought a Qantas A380 Crashed

Early images of Qantas Flight QF32 debris showed signs of significant airframe damage.

Qantas were reasonably quick (but not nearly quick enough) to issue a press release . The updated press release confirms that Qantas have suspended services on their fleet of six Airbus A380’s until the cause of the uncontained failure can be determined.

This uncontained failure comes only 9 weeks after QF74 (Boeing 747) enroute to Sydney returned to San Francisco with similar uncontained engine damage.

Why Doesn’t Qantas Use Twitter?

On November 9th, 2009, we wrote this:

Qantas (Australia) doesn’t have an established Twitter presence and are yet to fully embrace the global reach and marketing opportunities that Twitter (and other social services) has on offer… and I’m left with the impression that it’ll take a major incident before they take the medium seriously.

Could this be the major social media life-lesson that’ll educate Qantas on their wayward social ways?

Rumours and news of an “A380 crashing” ran wild for hours before Qantas bothered to respond. Could have ended the flawed speculation (in 140-characters) well before the Internet filled in the blank bits with bullshit?

Update 1:

I’m advised from sources in Qantas (and confirmed via their protected crew forum, Qrewroom ) that the nature of the failure was more widespread than initial reports are suggesting. The gear was lowered via an alternate system and number one engine was unable to be shut down (after landing). We’re told that virtually every major system was affected. This information provides a little more insight into the decision to ground the entire A380 fleet.

Update 2:

From sources inside Qantas, I’m told that the flight was a route check for a Captain new to the aircraft and route flown, so three captains were on board at the time.

Further Updates

For further updates, please follow FLIGHT on Twitter .

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