The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has issued a preliminary report indicating that the accident involving a Quantas airbus flying from Singapore to Perth was likely caused by spurious information being sent to the flight control computer. The Australian safety “watchdog” is investigating whether transmissions from the Harold E. Holt Naval Communications Station interfered with the aircraft’s onboard systems. The possibility that passenger electronic devices caused the problem is also under investigation. The ATSB considers both possibilities unlikely, but neither can be ruled out at this stage of the inquiry.Readers of the eNews will recall that the airbus was cruising at 37,000 feet when it suddenly descended up to 650 feet causing serious injury to forty-four of the 313 people onboard. The ATSB is focusing on a flight computer system dubbed an ADIRU (air data inertial reference unit). Examination of flight data recorder information indicated that this system was producing erroneous information, possibly from a hardware or software glitch. Authorities have not yet determined whether the communications station, which transmits very low-frequency signals at high power, was on-air at the time. The ADIRU has been transferred to its manufacturer US firm for Northrop Grumman for extensive testing.The entire 43-page ATSB report can be viewed online.
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