When the engine exploded in mid-air on a Qantas Airways flight from Singapore to Sydney, Australia, captain Richard de Crespigny had to act fast to avoid catastrophe—and he did, saving the lives of all 469 people on board, even though the situation was far different from anything he’d experienced in training.
On November 4, 2010, captain Richard de Crespigny had just performed a practically perfect takeoff from Singapore’s Changi Airport with Qantas Airways. The weather was ideal, and he was just about to turn off the seatbelt sign. Then, the unthinkable happened—four minutes after takeoff, an engine exploded.
“…We heard a relatively small boom, followed one second later by a huge BOOM! which was like nothing I’d ever heard before,” Crespigny wrote in an excerpt for news.com.au.
He saw the flames from the cockpit and noted that, although both fires and engine failure aren’t fatal accidents on a flight, the situation he was in actually was life or death.
“The increased fuel flow generated higher gas flows that spun up the now disconnected 160kg turbine disc until it burst like a supernova,” he told news.com.au. “Hundreds of pieces of shrapnel blasted through the engine, travelling at more than 2.6 times the speed of sound. That was the second huge BOOM! … The damaged parts remain contained inside the engine housing. What we faced on QF32 was an uncontained engine failure, and it represented danger on an entirely different scale.”
None of the crisis procedures he learned in training would work to solve this problem. So de Crespigny prepared for every worst-case scenario: landing too fast, too heavy, with a broken wing, and without control. He managed to land the flight without incident, but then had to make the difficult decision to keep the passengers on the plane instead of evacuating them, believing it safer while the engine was running out of control. The passengers and crew eventually deplaned, unscathed, thanking him for saving their lives.