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Huge hole in terror plunge plane 'could have been caused by corrosion, spotted in March'

Posted on 12:55 PM by Sameer Shah

Terrified passengers cried and prayed when a hole the size of a van was blasted out of the side of their jumbo jet at 29,000ft.

The plane was forced to drop 19,000ft as the jagged tear - measuring around 20ft x 10ft - led to a sudden decrease in cabin pressure.

The Boeing 747 from London to Melbourne, which had just completed a stopover in Hong Kong, made an emergency landing in the Philippines today. Some of the 346 passengers were sick when they were ushered off the plane and realised for the first time the extent of the damage - and the danger they had faced.








'None of us realised how lucky we were until we got off the plane here and saw the size of the hole,' said Phil Rescall, from London.

'We just stood and stared in amazement. We knew then that we had been very lucky.

'As we were descending it was a very touchy situation for all of us - we just didn't know what had caused the pressure inside the plane to drop and the oxygen masks to drop down.

'Some of the passengers were crying, which is very understandable. It wasn't something you want to go through again. A lot of people were very shaken when they saw that hole.'

Terror: Stills from a passenger video show the moment the oxygen masks dropped

The damage is now being inspected by engineers, but an initial investigation suggested there had been an 'explosive decompression'.

This is a sudden drop in pressure caused by a violent explosion, and is likely to have resulted from a weakness in the plane's structure.

There were claims yesterday that engineers had found serious corrosion in the Qantas Airways jet involved during a major refit in March.

Another possibility is that the belly of the plane was damaged by debris on the runway when it took from Hong Kong.

The pilot radioed for an emergency landing after the aircraft lost cabin pressure after take-off.

He used emergency procedures that involved taking the aircraft down from 29,000ft to 10,000ft.

The pilot is said to have made a 'sharp but controlled descent'.

David Newman, head of the Aviation Medicine Unit at Monash University in Australia, said the passengers were lucky to be alive.

He added that those involved in explosive decompressions could experience dangers such as low oxygen levels, extreme cold and flying debris.

'There's a lot of noise, it's cold, things go flying around the cabin,' he added. 'In worst-case situations people can basically get sucked out of the aeroplane.'

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