Freeway view of crash aftermath courtesy ABC News


The tragic crash of a B200 turboprop after takeoff from Melbourne’s Essendon airport this morning appears similar to the Advance Airlines crash at Sydney Airport on this day February 21,  in 1980, which killed the pilot and 12 passengers shortly after taking off for Temora.

Like the Essendon crash this morning, which killed all five people on board, the pilot of the Advance flight suffered a catastrophic failure of one of the plane’s two turboprop engines shortly after taking off.

That B200 crashed into the seawall on the side of what was then Sydney Airport’s only north-south runway, which extends into Botany Bay.  The Essendon flight struck the roof of a building and then a car park in the DFO shopping centre, close to Essendon Airport, which is around seven kilometres from Melbourne’s major airport at Tullamarine.

The sequence of events in the 1980 disaster are shown on the graphic below, published by The Age newspaper on the morning after the night time crash. (The ATSB’s report into the crash is here.)

The B200 that crashed this morning had just taken off for King Island. The aircraft concerned was being operated by Corporate and Leisure Aviation but hired from MyJet.

The pilot of the flight that crashed into the DFO centre building made a Mayday emergency call on the ‘catastrophic’ engine failure before an impact that tore the aircraft into small pieces and sent some wreckage onto the nearby Tullamarine freeway.  The crash was witnessed by hundreds of motorists.

The term ‘catastrophic’ in relation to engine failures generally means an uncontained or explosive disintegration of an engine, and can mean that damage is also done to the fuselage of a plane and control systems. The term ‘catastrophic’ in the context of an emergency call from the plane was used by Victoria Police in briefings. The ATSB investigation will establish the extent to which this may have happened in the DFO crash.

Australia also had another fatal B200 King Air crash on September 4, 2000, when a flight that had taken off from Perth for Leonora with mine workers on board apparently failed to pressurize, causing the pilot to lose consciousness and the plane to fly across Australia until its fuel ran out and it crashed near Burketown in Queensland.

All eight people on the ‘ghost flight’ as it was termed were assumed to have died of hypoxia before impact.

On August 28, 1983, all 12 people on board a Moore’s Air Charter King Air 200 died when it broke up in flight between Windorah and Toowoomba, the wreckage coming down near Adavale. The cause of the crash was never determined. That makes 38 fatalities from major King Air or B200 crashes in this country. (The descriptors King Air 200 or B200 are often applied loosely to the twin engined turboprops that share the same airframe but with some differences in performance, control and equipment). This Adavale King Air 200 disaster was overlooked in earlier versions of this post.

A Flying Doctor pilot died in a King Air crash at Mt Gambier on December 10, 2001, in an accident attributed to an error during a night time approach to an air strip. Not all of the accidents involving the B200 sized members of the King Air family appear on readily accessible data bases.

There have been numerous other accidents to smaller and lighter as well as heavier and much higher capacity versions of the wider King Air family line up of which in excess of 6600 planes across all models have been delivered to military and civil and private customers since 1964. King Airs have played a major role in Flying Doctor services and fire fighting services and search and rescue and maritime surveillance sorties in this country.

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