Sudden dip throws passengers out of seats – report

Henry

A sudden fall of 54 meters caused passengers who were not wearing seat belts to be thrown from their seats on a Singapore Airlines flight.

One person died and several other passengers and crew on board flight SQ321 suffered skull, brain and back injuries during last week’s terrifying incident.

The pilots diverted the Boeing 777-300ER with 211 passengers and 18 crew members on board to Bangkok, where the injured were taken to hospitals.

The Department of Transport said in a statement this week that the plane experienced a “sudden change” in gravitational force while the plane was flying over southern Myanmar. The information is based on a preliminary report from Singapore’s Bureau of Transport Safety Investigations.

The department says the “vertical acceleration” suddenly changed from positive to negative – within just 0.6 seconds – and probably caused the passengers who were not wearing seat belts to be thrown into the air.

The sudden change in gravity meant the plane suddenly plunged 178 feet – from 37,362 feet to 37,184 feet.

“The course of events most likely caused the injuries to crew members and passengers.”

The department says the preliminary report used data from the flight recorder and voice recorder in the cockpit.

The investigative team includes experts from Singapore’s transport authorities, the US National Transportation Safety Board, the US Federal Aviation Administration and the manufacturer, Boeing.

The aircraft initially experienced a slight vibration which led to an increase in altitude – from 37,000 feet to 37,362 feet – before the automatic pilot brought the aircraft back to its original altitude.

The pilots also experienced an automatic increase in airspeed which they then reduced themselves.

While they were controlling the airspeed, a pilot was heard shouting that the warning lights for passengers to fasten their seat belts had been switched on.

The increases in height and speed – which were done without command – were probably caused by the upward movement of air.

The statement made no reference to the plane’s sudden fall of 1,800 meters (6,000 feet) in just a few minutes. This is recorded on flight data that follows aircraft.

Singapore Airlines said last week that 42 passengers on board the flight were still in Bangkok and 26 of them were still in hospital at the time.

The shipping company is also giving its full cooperation with the investigation.