Mosman Insider: How hero Qantas pilot saved 469 lives when an engine exploded mid-air.
IN 2010, QANTAS CAPTAIN RICHARD de CRESPIGNY WAS FOUR MINUTES INTO A ROUTINE FLIGHT FROM SINGAPORE - AND ABOUT TO TURN THE SEATBELT SIGN OFF - WHEN HE HEARD AN ENORMOUS “BOOM” COME FROM THE A380 SUPER JUMBO. WHAT FOLLOWED WAS A LIFE OR DEATH EMERGENCY, WITH THE VETERAN PILOT SAVING THE LIVES OF 469 TERRIFIED PASSENGERS ON BOARD QF32.
By PETA GARRETT
Images by GRAHAM MONRO from gmphotographics
‘The ultimate test of resilience’ is how Richard de Crespigny describes the event that made him an aviation hero.
On Thursday 4 November 2010, the Qantas captain saved the lives of 469 passengers on QF32, when the A380 he was flying suffered a catastrophic explosion in its Number 2 engine, shortly after take-off from Changi Airport.
What began as a textbook flight for the pilot and his crew, became an extraordinary challenge to land the disabled aircraft and save lives.
“We climbed up through 7400 feet and at 10:01am I was about to turn off the seat belt sign when we heard a relatively small boom, followed one second later by a huge BOOM which was like nothing I’ve ever heard before,” de Crespigny writes in his latest book, Fly!
“What ensued was anything but easy.
“I found myself facing the ultimate test of my resilience: a situation that had the potential to become one of the world’s worst aviation disasters.”
Putting pen to paper for the second time, de Crespigny reveals to Mosman Collective the skills he utilised during the QF32 emergency, that he says anyone can apply in a crisis.
“They are skills and techniques that can be learned and applied by anyone who wants to flourish in this rapidly changing, often turbulent world,” says de Crespigny.
In the book, he offers insight into the workings of the human mind, exploring the process of decision making, risk taking, teamwork, leadership, knowledge and post-traumatic stress.
For this hero, it’s about building elements of resilience in order to gain the confidence to tackle life’s challenges - and come out the other side.
It was a childhood spent taking risks on motorbikes with his three brothers on the family property near Flowerdale in Victoria that started de Crespigny on his road to resilience.
“We would go away in the morning and come back at night,” he says.
“Sometimes we’d end up in hospital because there’d been an accident. We were responsible to look after the bikes, so they got us home at night.
“That was a defining time in my life that gave me great confidence.”
Watching his mother battle illness and then die from kidney failure at the age of just 43 in 1974, was also a defining moment for the then 17-year-old.
At the time, de Crespigny vowed to make his mum proud and pursue his dream of being accepted into the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Academy.
Following in the flying footsteps of his father and uncles, de Crespigny had caught the flying bug a few years earlier, after a tour of the RAAF Academy at Point Cook Air Force Base.
“To me, planes were like motorbikes of the sky - but with three more dimensions,” he tells Mosman Collective.
“They were faster, lighter and had unlimited growth potential.
“Everything about the Air Force was everything I wanted to do in life.”
It was through sheer determination and hard work that de Crespigny graduated in the top five per cent in the State and was accepted to the RAAF. After 11 years, he joined Qantas.
Now, with more than 20,000 flight hours under his belt, de Crespigny says he still loves nothing more than flying, thanks to an enduring passion for aviation, and everything that comes with the pressure of flying international aircraft.
“I also really love people - and it’s great to tour the cabin and talk to our passengers. I really enjoy having conversations with them,” de Crespigny says.
“The fascinating thing is that everyone on an aeroplane has a story.”
Richard de Crespigny will give an author talk at Mosman Library on September 24.