Plane accident victims seek compensation

Date:Jan 04, 2012

Two companies have been the subjects of a number of lawsuits after it was found that a malfunctioning airspeed instrument was responsible for a passenger jet's 50 metre drop over the Indian Ocean.

The Qantas flight QF72 - an Airbus A330 - was travelling at a height of over 11 kilometres off the coast of Western Australia on October 7 2008 when alarms started to go off in the cockpit.

Conflicting data on airspeed and engine stall warnings were of no help to the crew as the autopilot disengaged and the aircraft began a series of sharp nose-dives.

The first one was 23 seconds in duration and saw the plane travel a total of 210 metres - 50 of which happened in the first two seconds.

After that, a 15-second drop made the craft travel more than 120 metres vertically, causing mayhem throughout the cabin.

Both nose-dives saw members of the 300 passengers and 12 crew members get thrown around violently, resulting in 12 seriously wounded victims and a further 36 that required hospitalisation.

Several passengers suffered broken bones and fractures of varying degrees - and there was at least one noted case of brain damage.

For those lucky enough to have been strapped in at the time of the accident, a number have been diagnosed as suffering with psychological damage.

In some cases this manifests itself as recurring nightmares, for others they find that they cannot approach or look at a plane without a strong sensation of terror which has caused many to seek professional counselling.

Investigators from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said in a report that incident was probably caused by a failure in one of the devices used to detect air speed - with  "intermittent data spikes" causing the autopilot to react incorrectly.

"The failure mode was probably initiated by a single, rare type of internal or external trigger event combined with a marginal susceptibility to that type of event within a hardware component," said ATSB officers.

As a result, both the aircraft manufacturer Airbus and Northrop Grumman - the company responsible for producing the faulty air data inertial reference unit - have been taken to court by personal injury lawyers representing the victims.

It is understood that the outcome of these cases could provide the claimants with hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

While the cause for the claims is well documented, a compensation lawyer can help to provide victims with valuable council about their legal options.