PASSENGERS have described the terrifying moment a vortex sent their Qantas flight into a 10-second “nosedive” over the Pacific Ocean.
Hundreds of horrified travellers were convinced they were going to die when the Airbus A380 went through extreme turbulence before suddenly dropping out of the sky.
Times Newspapers Ltd Passengers said they were convinced they were going to die when the Airbus 380 went into freefall. This jet is taking off from Heathrow
Flight QF94 from Los Angeles to Melbourne is understood to have been thrown off by the vortex, or “wake turbulence”, created by another aircraft which took off just two minutes before it.
Passenger Janelle Wilson said the “three-quarters-full” plane suddenly went into “freefall… a direct decline towards the ocean” around two hours after leaving LA.
She told the Australian: “All of a sudden the plane went through a violent turbulence and then completely up-ended and we were nosediving.
“We were all lifted from our seats immediately. It was that feeling like when you are at the top of a roller coaster and you’ve just gone over the edge of the peak.
Alamy It is thought flight QF12 got caught in the ‘wake vortex’ of a plane which took off two minutes before it
“It was an absolute sense of losing your stomach and that we were nosediving.
“The lady sitting next to me and I screamed and held hands and just waited but thought with absolute certainty that we were going to crash.”
Thankfully the pilot managed to regain control of the aircraft and nobody on the 484-seater aircraft was injured, news.com.au reported.
QF94 took off from LA at 11.29pm, just two minutes behind QF12 which was headed for Sydney.
It is thought the second place got caught in the first one’s wingtip vortex, a circular pattern of rotating air the wings leave in their wake.
These linger in the atmosphere long after the plane has moved on and can be a potential hazard to following jets, particularly light aircraft.
Boldmethod A wingtip vortex is the circular pattern of rotating air the wings leave in their wake
The intensity of the vortex depends on size, speed and flap settings but unsurprisingly, the strongest ones are produced by heavier aircraft.
A Qantas spokeswoman is reported to have said the two A380s were a safe distance apart: 20 nautical miles and 1000ft in altitude.
There have been several incidents of wake vortexes causing serious injuries and even deaths after pilots lost control of the aircraft.