The Qantas A380 Engine Failure: The story of an ops team pulling through a crisis

[Thanks to ‘evanm’ on Hacker News, here’s a link to the full documentary if you don’t want the abbreviated versions below.]

As a low hours pilot I spend a lot of time reading NTSB reports and postmortems on flight incidents to try and avoid repeating the mistakes others have made or learn about how they successfully dealt with problems encountered during flight.

One of the most impressive stories I read about fairly recently was the Qantas A380 engine failure. I have a lot of respect for pilots who deal with crises successfully and for me Sullenberger’s landing in the Hudson has always been my favorite and most heroic story. Even though Sullenberger was facing a high workload during his engine failure, he focused on flying the plane and did a textbook water landing.

But what fascinates me about the Qantas A380 failure is it’s more about the team pulling through, especially the first officer. After the engine fails the first officer is confronted with a monster list of system failures that the avionics dumps on him and he has to very quickly work through each item. They eventually gain an understanding of the aircraft status and come up with an operational plan to put it back on the ground.

As someone who writes software for a living and used to be an operations guy, for me the Qantas A380 engine failure is the story of an ops team facing tremendous pressure with zero option for failure and incredible time pressure, and transforming a severely damaged system into something operational again in order to successfully shut it down.

If you have the time, I’d recommend watching this two part documentary which captures most of the story. You can tell from the first officer’s recounting of the incident how much pressure he was under at the time.

8 thoughts on “The Qantas A380 Engine Failure: The story of an ops team pulling through a crisis

  1. I’m also a licensed pilot, inactive for many years, Commercial/SMEL + Instrument.
    I agree with you that “Sullenberger’s landing in the Hudson should be a favorite story, and it is one of mine. However I stop short of calling a pilot a hero, except when he assists after a crash/incident.
    The water landing was a superb demonstration of pilot skill, but in any situation like that you, as a pilot, must be fully aware as I am that the first one to arrive at an aircraft crash is the pilot. What you have to do is watch out for your own tail and the people in back are just along for the ride.

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