Back to News

Qantas crew settles lawsuit decade after computer sent plane into dives

Almost a decade after a Qantas aircraft carrying 303 passengers nosedived twice due to a computer malfunction, the last of the plane's pilots and flight attendants to have pursued legal action have settled their claims in the US against two manufacturers.

Qantas Flight 72 was en route from Singapore to Perth on October 7, 2008, when one of the A330's three air-data units sent incorrect information to other systems, resulting in a flight control computer twice commanding the aircraft to nosedive off the West Australian coast.

Eleven passengers and one flight attendant suffered severe injuries, including fractures and lacerations, while 99 passengers and eight crew had minor injuries.

The captain of QF72, Kevin Sullivan, second officer Ross Hales and customer service manager Lisa Polizzi reached settlement in their personal injury claim against European plane maker Airbus and aerospace company Northrop Grumman during mediation last month, just days before the case was due to go to hearing in the Cook County Court in Chicago.

Michael Hyland, an aviation lawyer at Sydney law firm LHD who advised Captain Sullivan and Ms Polizzi, said the end of the legal action was expected to bring some form of closure for the crew members who had endured the stress of the case for almost a decade.

“Any litigation carries an inherent stressor for the parties involved,” he said.

“In my experience, once the litigation has been completed, it removes a significant psychological weight from the life of the plaintiff.”

However, Mr Hyland said Captain Sullivan, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, was likely to continue to suffer from the incident.

“The fact that he has completed his litigation gives him some degree of closure but he is still going to be dogged by that injury for the rest of his life,” he said.

The terms of the settlement, including the size of any financial payments, remain confidential.
Captain Sullivan, a former US Top Gun pilot, left Qantas in 2016 after three decades at the airline. Ms Polizzi and Mr Hales are still working for Qantas.

The crew members are prevented from talking about the case due to confidentiality agreements.

About 100 passengers of QF72 injured in the incident have previously settled compensation claims.

Airbus and Northrop Grumman both declined to comment on the terms of the latest settlement.