August 09, 2012
Distracted Qantas pilots mucked up programming their Airbus A380 cockpit computers and only realised they had done so as they hurtled down a Los Angeles airport runway, air safety investigators have found.
Interruptions to pre-flight procedures meant pilots had no readout of the target speeds they needed to reach in order to lift off - something the captain only noticed as the plane hit 100 knots (185km/h) accelerating along on the tarmac.
A chain of distractions led to the slip-up, the air crew told investigators from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. An unfavourable tail wind caused a last-minute change of runway for departure from LA, bound for Melbourne on October 8 last year. That change required new take-off calculations.
As the captain was readying to change the data in the navigation computer, cabin crew called the cockpit to advise they had a problem arming one of the doors for take-off, which might require an aircraft engineer's attention to fix.
As a result of the interruption to sort out the door issue, the captain had not followed all the procedures to enter data for the change of runway before taxiing. The first officer twice dismissed computer alerts about the plane's take-off data.