An engine failure on Qantas flight QF94 delivered a fright for several Australian IT professionals on their way home from industry conferences in the US.
About two hours after it left Los Angeles International Airport on the evening of Saturday 20 May, the Melbourne-bound Qantas A380 jet was forced to turn around and make an emergency landing after one of its four engines failed. The event cause delays for the aircraft’s 500 passengers, with hundreds stranded in the airport unable to get additional accommodation.
Australian staff, including Zettagrid principal technologist Luke Brown, NextDC chief customer officer David Dzienciol and staff from software vendors Tableau and Veeam were among those affected.
Veeam technical evangelist Anthony Spiteri, who was travelling home to Perth after attending the VeeamOn conference in New Orleans, captured footage of sparks coming from the engine in a video posted to Twitter.
Spiteri said he was travelling with other Veeam staff and Australian partners when he witnessed the engine failure first-hand.
“We got onboard and everything was normal, then about two hours into the flight, halfway through dinner, I felt like we’d been hit by something, the wing kind of dipped and then corrected itself, there was a short-of jolt to the aircraft,” he said.
“I looked out the windows and there were fairly significant sparks and what looked like flames trailing the engine. It took a few minutes for me to realise something serious was happening, it kept on sparking the plane kind of shuddered a bit.”
Spiteri said he was one of only a handful of people who actually had their window shades up.
“I think if everyone had seen what I’d seen there would have been a fair bit of panic,” he said. “After about 10 minutes a pilot made a very calm announcement saying they were shutting down the fourth engine, and then announced there was going to be a redirection.”
The plane arrived back in Los Angeles at 4am, and arrangements were made for a new flight which left that day about 11 hours later at 3pm.
NextDC executive David Dzienciol, who was returning from separate IT events, told CRN that Qantas acted admirably.
"Qantas handled the situation very professionally and safety was always the number one priority," he said.
A Qantas spokesperson told CRN: "Engineers are continuing to work on the A380 which returned to Los Angeles after an engine malfunction on Saturday evening.
"From a passenger perspective, we can understand that some people may have found the incident concerning. Our pilots followed standard operating procedures, shutting the engine down and landing safely in Los Angeles.
"We apologise that customers were delayed and some had to rest overnight in the terminal because of a shortage of hotel accommodation.
"All passengers from the cancelled flight have returned to Melbourne safely."