Qantas Flight 1
VH-OJH, the aircraft involved in the accident, photographed at Singapore Changi Airport some eight years later.
|Date||23 September 1999|
|Summary||Runway excursion caused by hydroplaning, pilot error aggravated by inclement weather|
|Aircraft type||Boeing 747–438|
|Aircraft name||City of Darwin|
|Flight origin||Sydney Airport|
|Stopover||Don Mueang International Airport|
|Destination||London Heathrow Airport|
Qantas Flight 1 (QF1, QFA1) was a Qantas passenger flight between Sydney and London that was involved in a runway overrun accident at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok on 23 September 1999 as it was landing for a stopover.
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Qantas flights travel between London and Australia on a route known as the "Kangaroo Route". The Kangaroo Route traditionally refers to air routes flown between Australia and the United Kingdom, via the Eastern Hemisphere.
This flight was operated by a Boeing 747-438[a] S/N 24806, delivered new to Qantas in August 1990 and registered VH-OJH. It departed Sydney earlier that day at 16:45 local time, and after more than eight hours' flying was approaching Don Mueang International Airport at 22:45 local time.
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During the approach to Bangkok the weather conditions deteriorated significantly, from 5 statute mile visibility half an hour before landing to nearly one half statute mile visibility at the time of landing.:1 The flight crew observed a storm cloud over the airport and ground reports were that it was raining heavily. However, these conditions are common at Bangkok. Seven minutes prior to Flight 1's landing a Thai Airways Airbus A330 landed normally, but three minutes before Flight 1's landing another Qantas Boeing 747 (QF15, a Sydney-Rome via Bangkok service), conducted a go-around due to poor visibility during final approach.:3 The crew of Qantas Flight 1, however, were unaware of this.
The first officer was flying the aircraft during final approach. The aircraft's altitude and airspeed were high, but were within company limits. The rain was now heavy enough that the runway lights were visible only intermittently after each windscreen wiper stroke. Just before touchdown the captain, concerned about the long touchdown point (over 3000 feet past the runway threshold) and unable to see the end of the runway, ordered the first officer to perform a "go-around" and the first officer advanced the throttles but did not engage the takeoff/Go-around switch (TO/GA). At this point visibility improved markedly and the landing gear contacted the runway, although the aircraft continued to accelerate. The captain then decided to cancel the go-around by retarding the thrust levers, even though he was not flying the aircraft. This caused confusion as he did not announce his actions to the first officer who still had formal control. When over-riding the first officer's actions, the captain inadvertently left one engine at TO/GA power and as a result cancelled the preselected auto-brake settings.
The landing continued, but manual braking did not commence until the aircraft was over 5,200 feet down the runway. The aircraft then began to aquaplane and skid its way down the runway, departing substantially from the runway centreline. Company standard operating procedures mandated that idle reverse thrust should be used for landings and that flaps should be set at 25 degrees,:17 not the maximum of 30 degrees. The combination of flaps 25, no auto-braking, no reverse thrust, a high and fast approach, a late touch down, poor Cockpit Resource Management, and the standing water on the runway led to a runway overshoot.
The aircraft gradually decelerated, ran off the end of the runway over a stretch of boggy grassland, colliding with a ground radio antenna as it did so, and came to rest with its nose resting on the perimeter road. The ground on the other side of the road forms part of a golf course.
There were no significant passenger injuries during an orderly evacuation of the aircraft carried out some 20 minutes after the rough landing. Thirty-eight passengers reported minor injuries.
The collision with the antenna caused the nose and right wing landing gear to collapse, the nose landing gear being forced back into the fuselage. The aircraft slid along in a nose-down, right wing low attitude, causing some further damage to the nose and damage to the two right engines and their mountings. The intrusion of the nose landing gear also caused the failure of the cabin intercom and public address system.
The damage was such that the aircraft was initially a write-off, but to preserve its reputation Qantas had it repaired at a cost of $100 million. By returning the aircraft to service, Qantas was able to retain its record of having no hull-loss accidents since the advent of the Jet Age.[b]
- Runway safety area
- Engineered materials arrestor system
- China Eastern Airlines Flight 5398
- Air France Flight 358
- The aircraft was a Boeing 747-400 model; Boeing assigns a unique code for each company that buys one of its aircraft, which is applied as an infix to the model number at the time the aircraft is built, hence "747-438" denotes a 747-400 built for Qantas.
- There have been several fatal crashes of Qantas aircraft, all of them propeller-driven. As of January 2018, the last fatal Qantas aircraft crash was in 1951 and the last Qantas aircraft to be a total loss was a Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation propeller airliner that was destroyed by fire on 25 August 1960 in another runway overrun accident, after one of its engines failed during takeoff on the island of Mauritius.
- Benns, Matthew (2009). The Men Who Killed Qantas. Sydney: William Heinemann:Australia. ISBN 978-1-74166-891-9.
- "ATSB Boeing 747-438, VH-OJH Bangkok, Thailand" (PDF).
- Nancarrow, Doug (2015). Game Changer. Sydney: HarperCollins Australia. p. 163. ISBN 978 1 4607 5044 5.
- Luck, Geoffrey (1 January 2011). "How Qantas Became the Safest Airline". Quadrant. Quadrant Magazine Ltd. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
- Job, Macarthur (1992). Air Crash Volume 2. Weston Creek, ACT: Aerospace Publications. pp. 172–175. ISBN 1 875671 01 3.