On November 4, 2010, the Airbus A380 operating QF32, from Singapore to Sydney, experienced a catastrophic engine failure, which subsequently disabled a large number of the aircraft’s systems. This book, by the captain on that day, describes how the aircraft is successfully piloted back to Singapore, under extreme pressure, and the subsequent related events.
There was never any doubt I would read QF32, as soon as I heard it had been written and published. I am one of those people who loves and is fascinated by aviation, but has never been actively involved.
I’ve been on the flight deck of QANTAS aircraft for landings in Singapore and London. Indeed, one of the most bizarre experiences in my life was having the captain of one of those flights showing me photos of his family and the steam boat he was restoring, while we were skating along at thirty something thousand feet towards London. Frustratingly, while all I wanted to talk about was aviation, all the flight crew wanted to talk about was IT, once they’d determined the industry in which I worked.
So, of course I bought the book, which opens with Captain De Crespigny describing an early flight during his RAAF career, before covering his life as he grew up. This progresses to further describe his RAAF career and early days at QANTAS. While this was interesting, I actually found myself initially feeling a bit duped, as I’d bought the book to read about that particular incident, not about his aviation career.
However, on reflection, I am glad he wrote it that way, for a couple of reasons. The career path Captain De Crespigny chose is exactly the one I contemplated. TAA and Ansett were no longer offering scholarships and my parents did not have the financial capacity for me to learn to fly and get my commercial licence. The only option available to me was the RAAF and I chose not to head down that path. Why? Truth is, I was too scared that some Prime Minister would make a decision for me to go and get myself killed fighting someone else’s war. Thus, as I read on, I found myself getting some insight into what my career might have been had I made a different decision. Hey, it could have been me flying the A380 that day, if I’d made a different choice.
The second reason I enjoyed reading about Captain De Crespigny’s career prior to QF32, was to understand how many of his learnings and experiences were brought to the fore on November 4, 2010. But I’ll leave it to future readers to understand what I mean.
The book is really well written, albeit with sections that repeat themselves a few times. I wasn’t quite sure whether this was for emphasis, or was poor editing. However, this wasn’t sufficient to make the read a bad experience, and I really enjoyed his style of writing.
While the coverage of the actual experiences of the day were excellent, I also enjoyed reading about subsequent events, particularly his post-traumatic stress issues. This was of particular interest to me given my emergency service background and the impact that Black Saturday and the 2011 Brisbane floods had on me as a Red Cross volunteer. Captain De Crespigny’s thoughts on what makes an effective team and how to lead a team were also great. I know a few people who think leadership is about one person, who should read it just for those parts.
In summary, we all know the story, so I’m not giving anything away. Engine explodes on relatively new aircraft. Through the superior engineering of the aircraft and magnificent skills and temperament of the crew on board, aircraft successfully returns to Singapore, with nil injuries. Despite the facts of the event that are already “out there” and my prior knowledge of what happened, through the internet, media and investigation reports, I found this book to be a great read and could not, seriously, put it down. I certainly highly recommend it.
One word of advice though – if you’re looking for a book to read on your next flight, maybe go for a novel.