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Laptops to blame for Qantas jet plunge?

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Passengers are being questioned over whether they were using electronic equipment just before their Qantas A330-300 plunged out-of-control over Western Australia.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has said an "irregularity" in one of the aircraft's computers may have caused the dramatic altitude change that threw passengers and crew around the cabin, injuring 74 people.

Safety officials have began investigating how the aircraft, on a routine flight from Singapore to Perth, suddenly shot up 91m (300ft) up into the air before plunging nose first after indicating to its pilots "irregularities" in its elevator control system.

The possibility that passengers' gadgets affected the aircraft's avionics hasn't been ruled out. However, a spokesperson for the ATSB said it was "too early" to lay blame on laptop computers or such like for the mid-air drama.

The Herald Sun has revealed that Qantas and other airlines were warned in July 2004 and again in August 2007 about the potential for a serious malfunction aboard the A330-300 series aircraft. Problems with elevation controls, including concerns about potential break-down of hydraulic "O-ring" seals were highlighted by Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Last July, it was claimed that a passenger clicking a wireless mouse during a flight sent a Qantas jumbo jet off course on a three-degree bank.

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