I live and work near several airports. It seems like I can hear a jet or see one on the horizon every time I look up in the sky. Given the number of flights every day, the industry has a very impressive safety record. In addition to amazing technology and rigorous maintenance practices, the industry benefits from excellent pilots. One such aviator, Qantas pilot Richard de Crespigny, tells the story of how he and his crew coped with a catastrophic engine explosion on an Airbus A380 in a riveting interview entitled “Richard de Crespigny,” a segment of the program Conversations with Richard Fidler on RN, from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, broadcast on July 3, 2013.
Richard Fidler starts his interview with Captain de Crespigny by asking about his background and aviation training. The Captain describes a training flight while he was in the Royal Australian Air Force. He was in a fighter jet with a more experienced pilot who suddenly put the jet into a spinning dive, then sat back smiling with his arms folded and asked de Crespigny what he was going to do now. The new pilot pulled the jet out of the dive and never took a smooth flight for granted after that experience, which left him mentally prepared to deal with a sudden emergency at any time during a flight.
Richard de Crespigny was Captain of Quantas Flight 32 out of Singapore on November fourth, 2010. Shortly after taking off, an engine exploded, causing massive damage to several of the plane’s systems. The cockpit was flooded with warning messages and alarms from the jet’s computers. In order to deal with the engine explosion in the A380 he decided to “invert the logic,” a strategy that he recalled being used by Gene Kranz, NASA’s Flight Director during the Apollo 13 mission. The idea is to switch your focus from what isn’t working to what is still functional. The crew focused on establishing that they had an aircraft with systems functioning well enough to keep flying and safely land on the runway available to them at Singapore Airport. One step in this process was to simulate some landing maneuvers while still in the air.
The passengers felt and heard the engine explode and some of them could even see fuel leaking out of the plane. As related by Captain de Crespigny, the Cabin Services Manager, Michael Von Reth, exuded calmness and confidence throughout the ordeal and kept good order in the cabin. After the crew safely executed an extremely difficult and risky landing, Von Reth went on the public address system and calmly announced “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Singapore. The local time is ten to eleven on Thursday, November fourth. And I am sure you will agree that was a great landing!”
To listen to the program, or download a podcast to listen to at your convenience, visit this URL below: