Passengers and crew members in the cabin who weren’t strapped into seats crashed into the ceiling, where they remained until the captain levelled the plane.
But then the rogue computer system overrode the captain’s controls, causing the plane to violently plunge again.
Caroline Southcott was on board the ill-fated plane, travelling home from a holiday with her husband Bruce - who worked as a flight services manager for Qantas.
While Bruce was belted in his seat, Caroline had just returned from the toilet when the plane plummeted.
“I remember getting hit on the head with the plane and I just went bang and before I could think, bang again and then the third bang I blacked out and I could feel my feet come up from under me,” she tells Sunday Night.
“And after the third time that hit me on the head I pretty much was knocked out.”
Like many other passengers on board, the air disaster left Caroline with life-changing injuries.
“I think there was no choice, it was fight or die,” Caroline tells the TV audience.
With a plane full of critically injured passengers, many like Caroline requiring urgent medical attention, Kevin had to try to land the crippled Airbus A330 entirely by hand, and with the possibility of the computer trying to wrestle back control at any moment.
Incredibly, Kevin managed to land safely at the remote Learmonth airstrip on the north-west coast of Western Australia.
But while Bruce and Caroline – and the plane full of passengers and crew – survived the frightening ordeal, Caroline’s fight to stay alive was far from over as she was airlifted to Perth and rushed into emergency surgery with a broken back.
To read Caroline’s miraculous story, pick up a copy of New Idea on sale Monday.