A passenger on-board a Qatar Airways flight has described the “terrifying” moment they almost hit the waters after the plane suddenly plummeted shortly after takeoff.
Flight QR161 was leaving Hamad International Airport, the carrier’s hub in Doha at 2am on January 10, heading to Copenhagen, Denmark, when it came within seconds of crashing into the Persian Gulf.
The Boeing 787-8 had climbed to about 1800 feet (550m) before it dropped by around 1000 feet (300m) for reasons unknown, according to The Aviation Herald.
Qatar Airways told news.com.au it has launched an investigation into the incident.
According to a Flightradar24.com playback of the takeoff, the plane came within 850 feet (259m) of the water – or 17 seconds.
Lucas Anderson, a veteran air traffic controller who was a passenger on the flight at the time, said one person vomited from the sudden drop and “people all around the cabin screamed”.
“After around 70 seconds into the flight and from out of nowhere there’s this loud sound as the plane goes from pitch up to very much pitch down,” he told the Daily Mail.
The 43-year-old was travelling with his wife and two boys aged 11 and nine, as well as his sister’s family.
He said his youngest son was terrified, as was he, however he tried to stay calm for his boy’s sake.
“But it sure crossed my mind … this is it, we are going down. Being in the aviation industry, I know how critical the departure phase is and descending with such a high rate at that altitude is never a good thing. It was very scary. It was a feeling of the plane being thrown towards the ground,” he told the publication.
According to Mr Anderson, the 250-passenger capacity plane was “basically loaded” with people.
He said it took off 20 minutes after schedule and they were told it was going to a pleasant flight with some light turbulence a few hours into the flight.
But after the near-miss there was no word form the cockpit and so passengers asked the flight attendants, but they allegedly gave no explanation.
The plane ended up landing safely in Denmark about six hours later.
When the plane was at about 1600 feet (490m), the first officer who was flying the aircraft, was cleared to the next waypoint on the flight path.
However, after attempting to turn, with the first officer reportedly flying manually and without ‘flight director’ indications, they allegedly lost situational awareness.
The aircraft was then sent into a descent that reached a 3000fpm (feet per minute) sink rate, The Aviation Herald reported.
Flight director is a computer-generated marker which shows the horizon and guides pilots along the correct flight path.
With the aircraft dropping 50 feet (15m) per second, the captain took over and recovered the plane – at around 800 feet (250m) – seconds away from hitting the waters.
Once the captain had things back under control, the flight continued to Copenhagen.
A Qatar Airways spokesperson told news.com.au it is investigating the near-miss.
“Qatar Airways is aware of an event relating to flight QR161 operating Doha to Copenhagen on January 10, 2023,” the spokesperson said.
“It was immediately reported to authorities and an internal investigation is being carried out.
“The airline follows the most stringent standards of safety, training and reporting and is working to address any findings in line with industry norms.”
Last year Qatar Airways was named the world’s best airline for 2022 by AirlineRatings.com.
The carrier nudged out Air New Zealand, which secured second place, followed by Etihad Airways, Korean Air and Singapore Airlines