Little Bits of History

No Crash

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 23, 2013


September 23, 1999: The twentieth century’s most serious jet plane accident occurs – for Qantas. QF1 or QFA1 is the Kangaroo Route making two hops for the trip from Sydney to London. An intermediate stop for refueling takes place in Bangkok, Singapore, or Hong Kong. This trip called for a stop in Bangkok. The flight left Sydney at 1645 local time. Eight hours later, the plane approached Bangkok at 2245 (10:45 PM), local time. Weather conditions worsened rapidly as the area was blanketed by a rain storm, rather routine for the region. Visibility went from 5 miles to a half mile in less than thirty minutes.

A storm cloud hung over the airport. Thai Airways Airbus A330 landed normally just seven minutes earlier. Qantas QF15 chose a “go around” due to poor visibility, a fact unknown to her sister ship. Rain fell heavily and QF1 was both slightly too fast and too high for a perfect landing, although both were within the limits for a safe landing. The captain hesitated as his wheels hovered over the tarmac and opted to land rather than do a touch and go. The indecision caused a delay in the application of the thrust levers. One engine did not respond appropriately and the automatic braking was delayed. The jet first hydroplaned and then went into a skid. The plane ran out of runway before coming to a halt. An orderly evacuation took place within twenty minutes and 38 passengers reported minor injuries.

The investigation found the Boeing 747 had sustained “substantial” damage. The nose landing gear and one main landing gear were separated from the plane during the overrun. The plane was repaired and put back into service. The pilot had 15,881 hours of flying experience at the time of the accident, 724 of those hours with this type of plane. The co-pilot had flown 8,973 hours total with 5,187 of them in this type of plane. Australian report # 199904538 was completed on April 26, 2001 and listed Weather/Environment as the cause of the accident.

Qantas was founded in 1920 and is the national airline of Australia. Originally dubbed “The Flying Kangaroo” it is the second oldest continually operating airline in the world. Their “no fatalities” record refers to the jet era only. The first fatal accident occurred on March 24, 1927 when three were killed as an engine stalled during a landing. Ten more crashes claimed 76 more victims of the 128 passengers and crew. Qantas entered the jet age in 1959, eight years after the last fatal crash.

“The natural function of the wing is to soar upwards and carry that which is heavy up to the place where dwells the race of gods. More than any other thing that pertains to the body it partakes of the nature of the divine.” – Plato

“Man must rise above the Earth – to the top of the atmosphere and beyond – for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.” – Socrates

“There is no sport equal to that which aviators enjoy while being carried through the air on great white wings.” – Wilbur Wright

“You haven’t seen a tree until you’ve seen its shadow from the sky.” – Amelia Earhart

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Qantas remains operational to this day. They are headquartered in Qantas Centre in Mascot, a suburb of the City of Botany Bay, in Sydney, New South Wales. Their main hub is at the Sydney Airport with two others located at Melbourne Airport and Brisbane Airport. They have three secondary hubs located in Adelaide, Dubai, and Perth. Today, their fleet has 147 planes servicing 41 destinations – 20 domestic and 21 international. Leigh Clifford is the Chairman of the Board and Alan Joyce is CEO. In 2008, an Airbus A330-300 was traveling from Singapore to Perth and suffered a rapid loss of altitude. The pilot recovered control of the plane and landed safely, although not in Perth. Fourteen people were transported by air ambulance to Perth and another 30 needed hospital treatment. An additional 30 people were injured, but did not require hospital treatment.

Also on this day: I Shot the Sheriff – In 1980, Bob Marley played his last concert.
40-40 Club – In 1988, Jose Canseco began the 40-40 Club.
Lost at Sea – In 1641, the Merchant Royal, a British merchant ship, sunk.

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2 Responses

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  1. Peter Griffioen said, on September 24, 2013 at 5:00 am

    My nephew and his wife were on that flight. Both fine but it really shook them up.

    • patriciahysell said, on September 24, 2013 at 7:57 am

      I’m glad they were safe. That six levels of separation thing, who knew?

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