Drop the pilot? Having one pilot in the cockpit is a terrible ...

World

Drop the pilot? Having one pilot in the cockpit is a terrible idea

Automation and tight budgets are tempting airlines to slim down flight crews. How will that help in an emergency?

Tim Culpan and David Fickling

It took just 23 seconds for Qantas Airways flight QF72 to drop 210 metres, throwing passengers into the ceiling midway through its journey from Singapore to Perth. 

Within five seconds, the Airbus A330 experienced forces equal to negative 0.8 times gravity switching to 1.56G, which must have felt first like the drop of a roller coaster followed by an acceleration faster than a sports car. It was a harrowing experience that left more than 100 injured.

When the flight computer went “psycho”, as captain Kevin Sullivan later described it, he had the second officer by his side and the first officer was already heading back to the flight deck. He needed them. Three minutes later, the aircraft once again pitched down and fell 122 metres in 15 seconds, with the pilots working together to troubleshoot the problem...

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