Imagine a commercial passenger plane with a mind of its own. It acts against the demands of the pilot, and seems determined to kill everyone on board. This unlikely scenario is precisely what transpired on October 7, 2008, as Qantas Flight 72 spiraled towards the earth, taking all 303 passengers and nine crew members with it. The documentary Qantas Flight 72 recalls this traumatic event with pulse-pounding intensity.
The flight was traveling from Singapore to Perth, Australia when it began to malfunction. The autopilot function disconnected and sent the plane on a sharp descent. Captain Kevin Sullivan, a well-regarded pilot with a life-long love of aviation and valuable military flight experience, found himself fighting against his own aircraft to save everyone on board. Against all odds, he succeeded. Sullivan appears as the film's centerpiece interview subject, and his moment-by-moment description of the ill-fated flight is chilling. Additional interviews with passengers and crew team members further compliment the thrilling narrative.
The film also features grisly accounts of the severe wounds inflicted upon dozens of the passengers, and details their inspiring struggles for survival. While they are all admittedly happy to be alive, the lasting effects of trauma - both physical and psychological - will remain with them for some time.
Anecdotes of heroic acts and daring rescues abound throughout the course of the film. Curiously, however, Qantas did not permit any of its staff to recount these experiences for the cameras, and it has shunned publicity surrounding the event, even if aimed at celebrating the pluck and resolve of its own crew. Captain Sullivan has not been officially recognized or awarded for his unparalleled bravery and skill in the face of certain death.
Even more startlingly, the airliner has shown little regard for investigating the root cause of the incident. Aviation advocates - like fellow hero Sully Sullenburger - claims that automation technologies in the cockpit are a double-edged sword. While they don't necessarily increase the potential for disaster, they may introduce a whole new set of challenges that pilots and manufacturers aren't anticipating.
Qantas Flight 72 is a harrowing, but ultimately uplifting tale of survival.