Singapore Airlines Flight SQ321 experienced ‘rapid change in gravitational force’

Singapore Airlines Flight SQ321 experienced 'rapid change in gravitational force'
The incident resulted in the death of a 73-year-old British passenger who is thought to have had a heart attack (Image credit: Franz Massard/Adobe Stock)

The Singapore Airlines flight hit by “severe turbulence” on 21 May experienced “rapid changes” in gravitational force (G), an investigation has stated.

In a preliminary report into the incident, Singapore’s Transport Safety Investigation Bureau said: “The vertical acceleration changed from negative 1.5G to positive 1.5G within four seconds.

“This likely resulted in the occupants who were airborne to fall back down.

“The rapid changes in G over the 4.6 seconds duration resulted in an altitude drop of 178ft (54m), from 37,362ft to 37,184ft.

“This sequence of events likely caused the injuries to the crew and passengers.”

Around 17 minutes after the incident, the pilots were able to make a “controlled descent from 37,000ft”, the bureau’s report added, and the aircraft did not encounter any more severe turbulence during its diversion to Bangkok, where it made an emergency landing.

The incident resulted in the death of 73-year-old British passenger Geoff Kitchen, who is thought to have had a heart attack, and the hospitalisation of several others onboard Flight SQ321.

Singapore Airlines confirmed shortly after the incident that the aircraft “encountered severe turbulence en route” from London to Singapore.

Images posted on social media showed broken overhead panels in the aircraft cabin ceiling.

Dzafran Azmir, a 28-year-old student who was onboard the flight, told the news agency Reuters: “Suddenly the aircraft starts tilting up and there was shaking so I started bracing for what was happening, and very suddenly there was a very dramatic drop so everyone seated and not wearing a seatbelt was launched immediately into the ceiling.

“Some people hit their heads on the baggage cabins overhead and dented it, they hit the places where lights and masks are and broke straight through it.”

The airline stated it was co-operating with investigators and supporting affected passengers and crew, including with medical and hospital expenses.