James (00:00):
… Back closer to home because it’s been two weeks since one passenger died and many others, including Australians, were left seriously injured on Singapore Airlines flight 321. One Australian aviation compensation lawyer is now questioning if unexpected turbulence was actually to blame or whether the airline might be at fault. Lawyer Peter Carter is a pilot and a former president of the Queensland Aviation Law Association of Australia, and he joins us now from Brisbane. Peter, good morning.

Peter Carter (00:32):
Good morning, James.

James (00:33):
Do you believe that human error was to blame for this incident?

Peter Carter (00:37):
Well, we have only been issued a press release, not the sort of full initial report we’d expect. One and a half pages, light on detail. I think that the passengers and all passengers on airlines deserve to know whether this really is a clear air turbulence event or one more likely associated with predictable thunderstorms that could have been avoided.

James (00:59):
What’s your view then? Why would the airline not be open about this?

Peter Carter (01:04):
Well, firstly, probably because they’re embarrassed. Secondly, because there are compensation implications. If the airline can prove the accident occurred without any fault on their part, the damages are capped for passengers at 175,000 US dollars. Now, some of these passengers are much more seriously injured and they’ll require care and their damages will exceed that sum. So that’s why.

James (01:32):
Okay. So if it wasn’t clear air turbulence, what is your theory about what caused this?

Peter Carter (01:37):
Our working theory at the moment is that the aircraft flew through the top of a thunderstorm or in proximity to one and didn’t keep the mandated clearance from thunderstorms, as would be expressed in the airline operations manual. Thunderstorms are very dangerous. The crew should have been very intensely monitoring the weather radar as the aircraft approach the intertropical convection zone where thunderstorms are notorious.

James (02:11):
Right. So you’ve got a list of questions that you’ve posed and you would like them answered by Singapore Airlines. What are some of the key things you want explained now?

Peter Carter (02:21):
Well, what is the distance that’s mandated in the airline operations manual to keep clear of storms? Why didn’t the aircraft avert when two others did around the same time or not long before and after in the same area? And what actions did the crew take to potentially avoid the thunderstorms?

James (02:45):
All right, Peter Carter, thank you so much for your time this morning. And Lisa, we did contact Singapore Airlines about the issues raised by Peter. It declined to provide further details because the incident is still under investigation. It also referred us to a preliminary report into the turbulence.

Lisa (03:07):
Stay tuned on that one.