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Former flight attendant recalls nightmare nosedive that ended his career, and pilot's heroics

The terrifying events of October 7, 2008, on board flight QF72 remain vivid today for former Auckland police officer turned flight attendant Fuzzy Maiavia.

Mr Maiava was on duty when the Perth-bound plane carrying 315 people nose-dived twice over the Indian Ocean. He was among the more than 100 crew and passengers injured in the incident, with his injuries leaving him unable to work since.

Now, Mr Maiavia is calling for the pilot, Kevin Sullivan, to be formally recognised for his heroism. It comes after the recent release of a book he wrote about the fateful day, called No Man's Land: The Untold Story of Automation and QF72.

He recounted to TVNZ1's Breakfast today that he had been making his dinner alone in the back galley after packing up the passengers' dinner plates when "all hell broke loose".

"It was just like a tsunami, you know? It was me, and I just heard this big bang - like a real slap - and I could see in the corner of my eye the couple who were with me in the back floating, so to speak. And I just thought, 'That's weird.'

"It made me look towards the floor, towards my feet, and I could just see the floor disappearing, and that's when I felt that heat rush from my feet right up to my head. Next thing I knew, I was knocked out."

Mr Maiavia had hit the ceiling of the plane - a "head-on smash".

"I'm not sure how long we were up there for until I became conscious when I hit the galley bench and ended up bending it."

He said it was "hard to explain" the emotions he had felt in the moment, adding, "I've never been in a situation like that before".

"When I actually crashed on the floor, I looked up and I'm not sure how long I was out for. I sort of looked up and all I could see was the oxygen mask just dangling, just, you know, trying to figure out what just happened.

"After the second nosedive, I actually thought we were going to die."

He recalled turning to look at his co-worker, whose blood was "pulsing out of her head".

"I looked at her and it's just that feeling you get. That's shock, just looking at her and she looked at me and it was like the last person you would see and I’m saying to myself, 'Man, something's definitely wrong.'

"I actually prayed and prayed to God, you know, to make this happen quick so that we wouldn't feel the pain. You just couldn't imagine, so yeah, that was all I could say."

Meanwhile, Mr Sullivan was fighting to keep the plane in the air.

"He's a top gun fighter pilot," Mr Maiavia said of Mr Sullivan, who he now considers a close friend. "What I know more now than I did 11 years ago about automation: there needs to be a human interaction. There needs to be an override kill switch to handle a situation.

"I thank God he was there because had he not been there, we would not be having this conversation."

Mr Maiavia called Mr Sullivan "extraordinary", adding: "I love this guy. He's my older brother."

"We're family and that's why I started up this petition to have him acknowledged and recognised, because it's a worldwide event, it happened, it's true and it's not just 'doing your job' sort of thing, like 'get on the bus and drive'. It's more than that and that's why I'm so passionate about seeing, making this happen and asking New Zealanders to get behind us because there is that Kiwi connection and not just me, but my colleagues are.

"I ask the Kiwis to please get behind this and support this and make this happen."

To sign the petition calling for Mr Sullivan to be formally recognised, click here.

The harrowing ordeal of the passengers and crew onboard QF72 will be featured on TVNZ1's Sunday this week.

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Fuzzy Maiavia discussed the horrifying events of October 7, 2008 onboard flight QF72. Source: Breakfast