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Official: gadgets not responsible for Qantas jet plunge

Aussie Transport Safety Bureau lets laptops off the hook

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Initial investigations into the Qantas Airbus A330 mishap have concluded that it was due to incorrect information fed into the flight control system and not interference from passengers' gagdets.

A report by ABC news states that the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said incorrect information from a faulty air data inertial reference system (ADIRS) triggered a series of alarms and then prompted the Airbus A330-300's flight control computers to put the jet into a 197m nosedive.

The plane was cruising at an altitude of 37,000 feet when a fault in the ADIRS - not interference from passenger electronics, as Qantas had first suggested - caused the autopilot to disengage.

"About two minutes after the initial fault, the [ADIRS] generated very high, random and incorrect values for the aircraft's angle of attack," the ATSB said in a statement.

"These very high, random and incorrect values of the angle attack led to the flight control computers commanding a nose-down aircraft movement, which resulted in the aircraft pitching down to a maximum of about 8.5 degrees."

The pilots quickly regained control of the Airbus A330-300, issued a mayday call and successfully completed an emergency landing at Learmonth air force base in remote Western Australia. A number of passengers received medical treatment.

"The crew's timely response led to the recovery of the aircraft trajectory within seconds," the ATSB said.

The Herald Sun recently 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.

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