Qantas passengers sue Airbus over terrifying plunge

Dozens of Qantas passengers and crew are launching a multimillion-dollar case against Airbus and a component-maker over a terrifying mid-air plunge which left scores injured, a lawyer said on Monday.

Attorney Floyd Wisner said he was representing 76 passengers and crew who were on the 2008 flight which dived steeply twice, tossing people around the cabin and forcing an emergency landing in a remote Australian air force base.

Wisner refused to put a figure on the compensation sought from Europe’s Airbus and American firm Northrup Grumman, which made a data unit on the plane, but said it would be in the millions of dollars.

“I can tell you from my experience of cases like this, the awards probably would range from low six figures going up, depending on the injury,” he said via telephone from the United States.

“Some of the people with very, very serious physical and psychological [injuries] would be in the few million dollar range.”

Among the mostly Australian group he is representing, which also includes passengers from Britain, Sri Lanka, India and Singapore, are the three Qantas pilots who were on the flight, he said.

The Airbus A330-300 was flying at 37 000 feet as it made its way from Singapore to Perth on October 7 2008 when the autopilot disengaged and the plane suddenly nose-dived, plunging 200m.

‘No longer able to fly’
After the pilots brought it back to altitude, the plane went into another plunge and dropped another 400 feet, again throwing passengers and loose items around the plane and leaving more than 100 people injured.

“Some had broken limbs, spinal injuries, severe lacerations to their scalps,” Wisner said.

“Others had a combination of lesser physical injuries and psychological injuries. Some have more psychological injuries.”

Wisner said one passenger had described the cabin as “like a war zone”.

“People flew up to the ceiling, hit their head on the [luggage] bins, and then remained up on the ceiling for what to them seemed like an unusual amount of time only to come crashing down on top of other people,” he said.

Many passengers who were travelling that day are so traumatised by the experience they are no longer able to fly, he added.

Wisner, whose practice is devoted to aviation cases, said he had been contacted by Australian lawyers to work on the compensation claims before the statute of limitations expired on October 7, 2010.

He said if the claims were not settled, he expected the case to go to trial in the US within two years. – AFP

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