Menu lock

air safety

Mar 20, 2017

REX may be victim of engine defect in lost prop incident

A SAAB 340 similar to the REX plane did lose a propeller in similar circumstances 26 years ago

The propeller-less REX flight after landing at Sydney

The possibility that the REX incident involving a lost propeller from a SAAB 340 turboprop approaching Sydney last Friday was caused by a rare manufacturing fault has firmed following the finding of a US investigative report concerning a similarly non-fatal incident in America in 1991.

That NTSB report was uncovered by Simon Hradecky, the author of the Aviation Herald air accident website.

The parallels between the US findings and the known details concerning the shedding of a propeller from the REX flight are striking, although it is far from confirmed that they do in fact explain that incident.

The NTSB summary is all in upper case.

An earlier post on this topic (for which the comments have been preserved) contained some incorrect information published in good faith.

To be blunt, this reporter is unhappy with this situation, particularly given some of the sources.

It has now been established that the flight last Friday from Albury to Sydney was well past Canberra Airport when the pilots shut down the right hand engine and feathered its propeller, shortly before it separated and fell away, fortunately missing any control critical surface of the SAAB 340, which could have caused an crash likely to kill all 16 people on board.

That propeller hasn’t been found. My apologies to REX and their pilots for doubting the judgments that led to a continuation of the flight when it was incorrectly described as having first encountered engine problems near Canberra.

The ATSB inquiry is in its early days. The close up photos of the break point between the missing propeller and the engine appear to indicate some sort of structural failure induced by stresses that may or may not have been affecting the assemblage even prior to the vibrations that caused it to be shut down while near Canberra. Whether the causes include structural as well as maintenance related factors remains to be determined.

We recommend

From around the web

Powered by Taboola

85 comments

Leave a comment

85 thoughts on “REX may be victim of engine defect in lost prop incident

  1. Dan Dair

    The way this was reported in the ABC page I read, seemed to imply that the engine had only just been shut-down when the propeller ‘was shed’.

    (By the way, I think that is a very good use of language.
    The propeller has probably already been incorporated into an outbuilding by a ‘backwoodsman’ out in the hills somewhere.
    Which would account for why it’s not been found yet)

    The idea that the aircraft flew-on with only one engine for the best part of an hour is a bit beyond-the-pale, even by the usual ‘iffy’ Australian standards.?

    Perhaps when the ATSB & CASA get to looking at this incident & Rex’s operational procedures, they can have a look at Pel-Airs’ operational procedures at the same time.
    I imagine they’ll both be in the same place…….
    “in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet, stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard”?
    (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams)

  2. comet

    This is an extraordinary case, on many levels.

    It’s difficult to find other incidents of entire propellors falling off aircraft.

    And it’s difficult to find any prior incident of an aircraft experiencing engine troubles where it flies past the nearest available airport and continues to its intended destination.

    We might need to delve into the records of African nations to find similar behaviour.

    1. nonscenic

      Yes Comet. Even Precisionair diverted to the nearest airport when it encounted engine failure on one of its Atr 72s. https://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=20140710-0
      (Ignore the poor single engine landing training for its pilots that lead to the runway excursion and need for “significant repairs”. They had rebuilt the aircraft when I flew in it a year later)

  3. Tango

    Short or not, the nearest airfield is where you go. I am at a loss for words for a change.

    Beyond Gross stupidity?

  4. Resolute

    As a ex commercial pilot, I dont understand why –
    The PIC didnt land at the closest suitable airfirld/port ?
    He should not of continued on to Sydney !
    T i m.

    1. Dan Dair

      I hope for his sake the PIC obeyed a direct instruction from the CFO or CEO.
      Otherwise, I have little doubt that when the brown-stuff hits the fan, Rex will hang both of the flight-crew out to dry, to save their own skins,
      or at least their operating certificate.

      1. Resolute

        This and previous Reginal Express Airlines in flight engine failure in 2007, raises he issue – Does Regional Express Airlines have a police that – in the case of an inflight engine failure the aircraft is to continue to destination. NOT to land at closest suitable airport. This contravenes relevant ANR/ANO and CASA regulations ? Not a good look for Regional Express. I would not fly on a Regional Express SAAB -340. Until a thorough investigation of their entire ageing fleet is concluded. Perhaps its time to pension of the SAAB – 340 Reginal Express ?

        1. Tango

          Dan:

          PIC is responsible for the decision. They can make any decision they feel is right. CEO is not allowed in.

          Reality says they can and do get pushed (I think PelAir is a prime example as no pilot in his right mind would go on a one way trip)

  5. comet

    The cause of this incident?

    CASA.

    If CASA had issued penalties over the previous REX incident, then this one wouldn’t have happened.

  6. caf

    It’s a good reason to have a property in the Southern Highlands – build yourself a commuter plane, collected one piece at at time!

    1. Dan Dair

      I presume they’re going to have an industrial-sized supply of cyanoacrylate ‘super glue’, to reassemble the collection of parts.

      I also assume it’s going to have a similar look about it to Johnny Cash’s Cadillac.? (One piece at a time)

      1. Resolute

        This incident is not to be joked about.

      2. Resolute

        This and previous Reginal Express Airlines in flight engine failure in 2007, raises he issue – Does Regional Express Airlines have a police that – in the case of an inflight engine failure the aircraft is to continue to destination. NOT to land at closest suitable airport. This contravenes relevant ANR/ANO and CASA regulations ? Not a good look for Regional Express. I would not fly on a Regional Express SAAB -340. Until a thorough investigation of their entire ageing fleet is concluded. Perhaps its time to pension of the SAAB – 340 Reginal Express ?

      3. Stuart Coyle

        It looks like the prop has been found in bushland in one piece. You’d expect a prop to be pretty tough.

  7. drpixie

    Hi Ben,

    Your article is quite wrong in stating “If REX had been adhering to safety regulations it would have landed that flight … at Canberra immediately after it had an initial malfunction in that engine.”

    There is no requirement anywhere in the aviation regulations to land at the nearest (suitable) airport. The rules are very clear – it is solely the Pilot In Command’s (Captain’s) responsibility to decide where to land, though there is a list of 10 (quite common-sense) factors that the PIC must consider. (CAO 20.6 if you care to check.) Rex might have their own policies and requirements – I couldn’t tell you what they are but most companies’ policies echo the regulations word for word.

    1. Dan Dair

      Drpixie,
      I’ll take your word for it regarding CAO 20.6.

      However, there is an overt acknowledgement that flying on one engine is inherently problematic (as well as what common-sense would dictate) & consequently the ETOPS rules were codified to, help airlines to work-around the ‘usual’ engine-out flight rules.

      I assume that aside from ETOPS, there are no rules, regulations or similar, which would actually advocate passing-by a perfectly serviceable airport when flying on only one remaining engine.?
      If it’s a ‘toss-up’ between a local & a destination airport as to which is actually the closest, I can understand going to the destination for ‘customer service’ reasons.
      Apart from that, it seems obvious to me that you’d deliberately put the aircraft on the ground, before your circumstances changed & MADE you put it down, irrespective of whether you ended-up on a runway or in a field (if you’re lucky).?

  8. Ben Sandilands

    Dr Pixie,
    I’m happy to have this discussion. At the outset I took my time to talk to some pilots and standards people, and that discussion was animated. The upshot was, for me at least, that an airliner with a dead engine continued past CBR to Sydney when a well equipped and available airport presented itself. The pilots apparently chose not to divert to Wagga Wagga which was also available. The adverse vibes concerning this in the ATSB and CASA are publicly known. One consequence of this decision by the crew was to expose everyone on board to the very real risk that the propeller might have struck a control critical part of the airframe. That exposure of risk to the loss of 16 lives has not gone down well in other places.
    Having felt the fear expressed that the decision making on this flight could have easily ended in a terrible, and politically very sensitive mess on prime time TV, do you really think the captain made the right call?
    In my opinion the prime purpose of the regulation is to prevent such disasters. We nearly had one.

    1. JW (aka James Wilson)

      I agree that it was unwise to continue past the nearest suitable aerodrome in the reported circumstances, IF that’s what actually happened. On that point, you say the crew is “now known to have shut down the engine and feathered the propeller after noticing a vibration related problem while close to Canberra”. Did that information come from an authoritative source, or is it simply bar talk? You also state that “the adverse vibes concerning this in the ATSB and CASA are publicly known”. Again, where has that been mentioned to the public?

    2. Johnny Cash

      Ben, are you referring to an incident earlier in the flight? If so, then I would understand your ‘continue past canberra’ comments but like JW I haven’t seen anything to suggest/confirm this.
      You said “In the opinion of some people, the pilots decision was the wrong one” – This is ridiculous, we all have opinions, like we all have bottoms. Until the factual information is released (FDR, CVR and interviews etc) then those opinions are all based on very little.

  9. Ben Sandilands

    JW,
    Good try but I don’t publish idle chatter, and there are clues as to the source of the info in the response to Dr Pixie. I didn’t bookmark all of the general media news reports but I think the same people must have talked to some TV and print yesterday afternoon. As they should have!

  10. Johnny Cash

    Ben, I am very familiar with Rex, the Saabs and flying that same route, but I no longer work for them.

    I would like to question your information regarding the engine being shut down close to Canberra. I have spoken to people close to the operating crew and I was told the engine was in the process of being shutdown around Camden when the prop sheared off. If there has been new information offically released that contradicts what I have heard then I will stand corrected, but this is what I heard from people who heard it first hand.

    Also, the Nearest Suitable airport is not always the Closest. Think how long it would take to make a safe approach to the closest airport if it is one you have never been to or not prepared for – Find the charts, get the weather from appropriate frequency, calculate landing data, review and brief the approach, whilst managing the abnormal situation. I can guarantee this would take longer then flying further (perhaps another 50 miles or so, around 10 mins flying time) on a prepared descent path to an aerodrome you are very familiar with, and have likely briefed/setup for during the cruise. It would be similar to navigating a foreign city versus your daily commute to work, the distance isn’t the only factor…

    And seriously, Gundaroo? Not sure how they would find that paddock in the weather they had on the day…..

  11. Ben Sandilands

    Johnny Cash,
    The Gundaroo reference was to Dick Smith’s runway, which he once told me was comparable in length to London City but probably not as robust. The ATSB was quoted in a number of reports as saying it was very interested in the decision to continue past Canberra. These matters ought to be laid out in detail in the preliminary ATSB report in less than four weeks’ time. They would be readily verifiable. The concerns that were expressed to me directly were that in proceeding, the pilot was not in a position to understand the mechanical causes for his decision to shut down the engine and feather the prop, and that he clearly could not have envisaged the loss of the prop, which exposed the entire flight to unacceptable risks. The whole purpose of the rules on continued flight on a single engine on a multi engined plane is to reduce the risk of unintended or unforeseen consequences.
    In the opinion of some people, the pilot’s decision was the wrong one. There was a perfectly good airport, indeed two including Wagga Wagga, for a landing, which would have prevented the prop coming off, and presented the incident investigators with a complete engine-propeller assembly to study.

    1. JW (aka James Wilson)

      “The ATSB was quoted in a number of reports…”

      Interesting. I am yet to find any such reports, despite searching for them this morning. Secret journalist’s business perhaps??

    2. Johnny Cash

      Ben, are you referring to an incident earlier in the flight? If so, then I would understand your ‘continue past canberra’ comments but like JW I haven’t seen anything to suggest/confirm this.
      You said “In the opinion of some people, the pilots decision was the wrong one” – This is ridiculous, we all have opinions, like we all have bottoms. Until the factual information is released (FDR, CVR and interviews etc) then those opinions are all based on very little.

  12. Kevin Gillard

    Pretty disappointing from you Ben. A simple flight radar search shows the speed fluctuations and subsequent descent almost 1 hour into the flight. It has been a very long time since I flew the SAAB but from memory the planned TAS was around 270kt and the AY-SY sector is around 250nm, putting the aircraft on the outer suburbs of Sydney and nowhere near Canberra or Wagga Wagga. It would be highly unlikely that the crew would be able to maintain cruise altitude with an engine shut down. I would seriously question the validity of the information you have been given with regards to the location of the initial failure.

    1. Kevin Gillard

      Furthermore, as already pointed out, the regulations allow continuation past a suitable aerodrome under certain circumstances. On the17th Canberra was using runway 17 with low cloud. Canberra is a high elevation airport surrounded by high terrain and single engine performance is very restrictive. I would not class that as suitable on that day.

    2. Mick Gilbert

      Kevin, have a look at the Flightaware.com records for RXA768 on the day of the incident and compare it to the days either side of the incident day. It looks like on most days RXA768 climbs to FL200 or above but not on the day of the incident. Could be coincidental, could be an indication of something else.
      As the Zen Master was fond of saying, “We’ll see.”

      1. Kevin Gillard

        Sorry but I can only see one flight in the week preceding that went above FL200. Some at FL190, some at FL170 and one at FL150. The cruising speeds are also fairly constant over the range of flights, around the 28o mark. Again, without digging through my old books, I would be highly surprised that the SAAB can maintain normal cruising altitude and speed in single engine operations.

        1. Mick Gilbert

          I should have looked at the data and not the graph. Nevertheless, here’s a summary for the days before and after the incident based on the data;
          13 March – cruised at FL210
          14 March – reached FL190
          15 March – cruised at FL190
          16 March – cruised at FL190
          Incident 17 March – cruised at FL170
          20 March – reached FL190
          As I said, it may be coincidental but there’s definitely a change there.

          1. Kevin Gillard

            Coincidental. All moot now as Ben has corrected the article.

    3. Resolute

      Why didn’t PIC divert to Wagga/Canberra/Goulbourn/Camden/Bankstown ?

      1. Kevin Gillard

        Because either the engine was still running when they went past those airports or they were not suitable on the eyes of the PIC.

  13. Jaeger

    Missing propeller found in Revesby bushland after falling off REX flight
    (My comment with the link to the article is in moderation.)

    Based on the FlightAware track and description of the location in the article, it was probably found in Georges River NP; VH-NRX was in over the area in level flight (~7800ft) at around 11:49am.

    1. Mick Gilbert

      It was found in bushland near Revesby Heights – almost 30km from Camden!

  14. Mick Gilbert

    Interestingly, both the REX and NTSB incidents involved the right prop; the SAAB 340 has the option of a propeller brake for the right engine propeller gearbox that allows the right engine to be operated as an auxiliary power unit.

  15. Resolute

    So Bankstown airport would of been the closest.

    1. Kevin Gillard

      But not suitable!!! FFS how many times does it have to be explained to you? (here and on PPrune).

      Have you any idea of the workload involved in diverting a transport category aircraft? They would have been circling for 20 minutes setting up and briefing the approach. This is after they have searched through their charts to find the appropriate documentation required. Performance figures would need to be considered, what emergency services are available? How will they fit into the traffic pattern?

      Again, nearest SUITABLE!

    2. JW (aka James Wilson)

      Resolute,
      At the end of the day, the pilot-in-command must choose the safest option when deciding on the ‘nearest suitable’ airport. In this case, it was a far safer option to divert to Sydney, with its long runways, ‘proper’ ATC and very well equipped RFF, rather than choose Bankstown, with relatively short runways, and limited ATC/RFF. Especially given the aircraft was already on descent to Sydney, the crew is likely to have already prepared and briefed an approach to Sydney and Sydney was only another 5-10 minutes flying time away. No pilot in his or her right mind would divert to Bankstown in those circumstances.

      1. Tango

        I will tentatively agree but there are aspects that also weigh in.

        As they noted after the MD11 Swiss Air loss (fire) you get it down anyplace you can, including an ocean landing. Something like 30 minutes is about all you have. Sometimes you do take less than good option as its the best outcome.

        If on decent and a clean separation, probably. How much vibration prior though? That should play in.

      2. Dan Dair

        JW (Aka James Wilson),
        “the aircraft was already on descent to Sydney, the crew is likely to have already prepared and briefed an approach to Sydney and Sydney was only another 5-10 minutes flying time away. No pilot in his or her right mind would divert to Bankstown in those circumstances”

        Since we now know where the propeller fell-off, it’s now quite obvious that the nearest airport capable of taking NRX was Bankstown.
        As you correctly identify, it’s pointless diverting there, when KSA is only ten minutes further away & you can get in first-time from memory, the existing programming & landing checklist, as well as being pretty certain that the emergency services will be more than capable at KSA, if it comes to it.

        Additionally, though not significantly, the passengers will end up where they’re supposed to be & the maintenance facilities at KSA will easily be up to the repair job.!

  16. Resolute

    Perhaps it’s time to pension off the ageing SAAB-340B’s
    Been around a long time since 2007 for the B version.
    Regional Express bought 25B version 340’s in 2007 ,second hand from American Eagle. who began operating them around from around 1990. So some in the Regional Express fleet could be up to 27 years old ! 🙁
    Perfect for REX’s missions.
    What could replace them. ideas ?

    1. Dan Dair

      Resolute,
      “Perhaps it’s time to pension off the ageing SAAB-340B’s”?

      Or you could consider whether they should just replace the engines.?
      Since in fact the age of the airframe had absolutely nothing at all to do with the engine failing OR the propeller falling off.!!!

      The engines are made by General Electric in the USA, the airframes made or assembled by SAAB in Sweden. SAAB bought-in these engines, as do all aircraft manufacturers.

      The SAABs are getting a bit long-in-the-tooth but they are still being supported by the manufacturer & as long as the airframe lifespan & cycles are within specifications there doesn’t seem to be a problem.
      The aircraft is known for its ‘robustness’ & there is no history of older ones simply falling out of the sky.

      At this stage it looks very much like just an ‘engine maintenance issue’. Significant though it is.

      1. Tango

        That’s going to be interesting, no such thing as just an engine maint issue.

        What was the response for the original propeller loss in the US?

        Usually that results in magnaflux and that leads to the question why are they not magnafluxed to start with?

  17. Resolute

    ABOUT VH-NRX

    Serial number 291
    Type 340B
    First flight date 25/02/1992
    Plane age 25.1 years
    Registered 6 Oct 2004 in Australia

    Built by Saab Aircraft AB, Linkoping, Sweden – 1992
    First flown with test registration SE-G91 – February 25, 1992
    Entered onto the U. S. Aircraft Register as N362BE – March 24, 1992
    Registered to Lambert Leasing Inc, U. S. A.
    Leased to Business Express, New York as the registered operator
    Registered to Grant Holdings Inc, U. S. A. – July 29, 1992
    Leased to Business Express, New York as the registered operator
    Business Express was renamed Business Express Airlines – May 22, 1997
    Withdrawn from service and and returned to Lessor for storage at Nashville, Tennessee – December 2000
    Leased to Peninsula Airways, Anchorage, Alaska as the registered operator – January 01, 2004
    Withdrawn from service and and returned to Lessor for storage at Nashville, Tennessee – August 03, 2004
    Departed Nashville on ferry flight to Australia – September 20, 2004
    Arrived Wagga Wagga at the conclusion of ferry flight – September 24, 2004
    Cancelled from the U. S. Aircraft Register – September 30, 2004
    Entered onto the Australian Aircraft Register as VH-NRX – October 06, 2004
    Registered to Saab Aircraft Leasing AB, Linkoping, Sweden
    Leased to Australia wide Airlines Ltd, Wagga Wagga t/a REX Regional Express Airlines as the registered operator
    Operated first revenue service Wagga Wagga – Sydney as ZL664 – November 03, 2004
    Sold to Regional Express Holdings Limited, Mascot, Sydney – October 16, 2008
    Wonder how many hours and cycles it has accumulated ?
    Would be interesting information.

  18. George Glass

    This thread demonstrates why the internet impowers idiots. There is NO requirement to slam dunk an aircraft with an engine failure into the nearest runway. In fact in many simulator secessions I have endured it would be rewarded with a fail. Listen up armchair experts. The decision of how proceed in the event of an engine failure is complex and ultimately is the product of decisions made by a well trained experienced crew. Happily Australian domestic aviation has a plethora of just such aircrew. So spare me the half informed drivel and wait for the result of the inquiry. I’ll flew Rex anytime, anywhere. And I have no connection whatsoever.

  19. Resolute

    Some may say if a pilot that chooses to do the opposite is failing in his duty of care for crew and passengers. Is complacent and arrogant in his ability to make a more distant airport. Keeping in mind there may have been damage to the aircraft that is not immediately apparent, that could prove to be Catastrophic travelling the extra distance. (I am not necessarily referring to this incident. Just in general terms)

    1. JW (aka James Wilson)

      Oh FFS, it has absolutely nothing to do with complacency or arrogance. The crew must weigh-up all the different factors and decide on the safest course of action, but ultimately the pilot-in-command bears the responsibility for the decision. The factors that must be considered include the the likelihood of any secondary damage. That does not necessarily mean lobbing into the nearest bit of bitumen, if there’s a safer option further away. CAO 20.6 specifically states the “pilot in command of a multi-engine aircraft in which 1 engine fails or its rotation is stopped, may proceed to an aerodrome of his or her selection instead of the nearest suitable aerodrome if, upon consideration of all relevant factors, he or she deems such action to be safe and operationally acceptable.”

  20. Resolute

    “I’ll flew Rex anytime, anywhere”
    NO WAY – till a thorough investigation of the fleet is completed and CASA tables their report.

  21. dijical

    In light of Ben’s extraordinarily incompetent and willfully prejudicial initial article, I think it’s fair that REX’s response is noted in full (from their web site):
    Rex also takes this opportunity to correct certain gross inaccuracies in recent Seven News reports and other media:
    – that the aircraft should be diverted to Canberra in accordance with regulations.
    As stated in our previous media release and as confirmed by the location of the propeller, the aircraft was some 20 km away from Sydney airport when the engine was shut down and the propeller separated from the aircraft. It would be ludicrous for the pilot to divert the aircraft 250 km to Canberra airport when Sydney airport was just 20 km away. The Company stands behind the decision made by the crew to continue to Sydney airport. This was the correct and safest decision and in full compliance with both regulatory and company requirements. Further, Sydney airport has a precision landing system, longer runway and more suitable runway orientation to cope with the prevailing strong winds.

    1. Tango

      I still want to see when the issue started.

  22. Resolute

    Dijical be informed.
    I still WILL NOT fly with them till a thorough investigation of the fleet is completed
    and CASA tables their report.
    Resolute – The Yoda of Aviation.

  23. Resolute

    Note VH-NRX is an old aircraft.
    Over 25 years old in fact.
    As you can see from history in previous post above.
    It has been around the block – many times
    Nothing last forever.
    Time to put the SAAB- 340’s out to pasture.

  24. Dan Dair

    Ben,
    Respect to you for being big enough to admit, here in the same place you originally said it, that you’ve made a mistake & to offer your public apology for that mistake.

    1. dijical

      DD,
      I feel for Ben. But I can’t see how Ben’s statement: “An earlier post on this topic…contained some incorrect information published in good faith” is in any way an adequate apology.

      The post was a venomous, completely unfounded attack on the integrity, capability and professionalism of REX and its staff (Ben’s admirer Resolute has been kind enough to preserve the post in its vitriolic entirety by posting it to the PPRUNE forum).

      Sure Ben has acknowledged that the factual base of his post was wrong, and for that he has apologised. But he is completely silent on the cowardly attack that he built on top of these non-facts: effectively calling for the grounding of REX. I’m sorry, but it’s simply not good enough.

      1. Ben Sandilands

        Dijical,
        No post I have ever made has been as strongly rejected by most readers than the original version and that includes readers who never actually join discussions. Coming over the top of the discovery made by the Aviation Herald I acted as fast as possible for my current location. It’s not just my credibility that was damaged but that of certain other contacts. Many people discount the value of discussions on on-line media but this event underlines their worth.

      2. Mick Gilbert

        Dijical, when it comes to venomous and unfounded, well, seems like there’s a bit of that going around on both sides of the street.
        You say that you “… can’t see how Ben’s statement: “An earlier post on this topic…contained some incorrect information published in good faith” is in any way an adequate apology.” That wasn’t the apology, that was ghe context; this was the apology,
        “My apologies to REX and their pilots for doubting the judgments that led to a continuation of the flight when it was incorrectly described as having first encountered engine problems near Canberra.”
        I’m surprised you missed it, “My apologies to REX and their pilots” was in bold font.

        1. dijical

          Good point. It’s just as well that i didn’t over reach and call for Ben’s blog to be grounded!
          Ben, the issue that i have is not the factual error – it sounds like you were well and truely led up the garden path. That’s not a hanging offense, it happens.
          But on the basis of hearsay you buiilt an extraordinarily damaging and completely unfounded assault on REX. Judge, jury and executioner. Not good.

          1. Dan Dair

            Whilst accepting your point that Ben took a ‘stance’, there are two things to point-out;
            1. Rex does have a certain amount of ‘form’ & the Australian investigative & supervisory bodies have turned ‘blind-eyes’ in their direction in the past
            &
            2. Ben made it clear that his (usually honest & reliable) sources had let him down on this matter.
            Clearly, he was acting upon information-received & wasn’t just making stuff up. Although it appears his sources were.?

            Ben’s unequivocal apology for his mistake is IMO to be respected & applauded.
            How many journalists can you remember ever making such a statement.? (or pollies, civil servants, leaders of unions or industry, etc, etc.?)

  25. Resolute

    That’s why –
    Ben Sandilands is the most Respected and Knowledgeable
    Aviation journalist in the land.
    Resolute – the Yoda of Australian Aviation.

    1. Dan Dair

      Is that, green, wrinkly & with funny ears.?

      1. Dan Dair

        correct, that is.!

  26. Resolute

    This “Incident” will be punching a hole in their pax uplift figs . .
    Looking at their flights tomorrow on their top city pairs
    SYD – Albury/Wagga/Dubbo and Orange and reading between the lines.
    It looks like they are cancelling/consolidating flights to me.
    REALLY – Who would fly on their 340’s now, unless they absolutely had to – after this.
    Another 340 of similar age/cycles may encounter the same thing.
    Why tempt fate.
    Prior to CASA report is released.

  27. Dan Dair

    Resolute,
    With the greatest of respect,
    This issue,
    IF
    it is the same as the NTSB reported one, is ALL about the engines.
    IF
    it turns out that there actually was a manufacturing flaw in both engines, it may well be that GE will have to recall, strip-down & xray every single mainshaft of every aircraft in service, every engine on the shelf & every similar part on the shelves around the world.

    But it still won’t have anything at all, whatsoever, to do with how safe (or otherwise) the SAAB airframe is, or how much longer in can continue in main-line service.?

  28. Tango

    To put this in some perspective.

    About 5 years ago, BA 747-400 took off from LA headed to London.

    They had an engine failure in the Las Vegas area.

    They proceeded on across the US and then the Atlantic, and then declared an emergency and landed in Ireland as they were low on fuel.

    The US authroities were furious, they felt it was totally nuts and watned to take their license.

    UK authorities fought it as they claimed Jurisdiction and said it was within the PIC latitude.

    It was stupid, it obviously it was based on economics (and bad ones at that) and they should have at the least been suspended.

    So while it within the legal responsibility of the PIC to make those decisions, it is also well within the responsibility and authority of the AHJ to take their license away if their decision making is un-safe (to put it mildly)

    PIC is not get out of jail free, it has responsibilities as well as being held accountable for their decisions.

    1. JW (aka James Wilson)

      Tango,
      There is a vast difference between the requirements for twin-engined and four-engined aircraft. Depending on the circumstances, an engine failure in a four-engined aircraft is not necessarily an ’emergency’ and there is no legal or airworthiness requirement to divert to the nearest suitable aerodrome. The decision to fly-on would not be taken lightly and would consider a number of factors, including terrain clearance requirements in the event of a second failure and sufficient fuel on board to divert to the nearest suitable airport in the event of a second failure or depressurisation. With those requirements met, it then comes down to the PIC’s judgement as to whether it is safe to continue.
      The BA incident might seem extreme, but it was a considered decision that met all the requirements. No rules were broken and despite the FAA getting their knickers in a knot, nobody was sanctioned. The aircraft ran low on fuel towards the end of the flight because the tailwind across the Atlantic was less than forecast and the crew then diverted to Manchester (Note: Manchester isn’t in Ireland). They declared an emergency because of a fuel management problem that the AAIB investigation put down to inadequate training.

      1. Tango

        James:

        I agree it met the technical requirements. There is a great deal of sophism in that argument though.

        It was stupid at he very least and I contend irresponsible as well. All the end did was put a stamp of disapproval on that action.

        1. Dan Dair

          Tango,
          “It was stupid at he very least and I contend irresponsible as well”
          Had it been a big-twin, I’d completely agree with you,
          but the fact is it was the loss of one engine out of four.
          The aircraft can cruise on 3 engines & had the jetstream not been weaker than expected it wouldn’t have raised a investigative eyebrow.
          It only became a reportable incident because of the fuel-diversion.

  29. Resolute

    “Interesting to see that the prop was already feathered when it departed the airframe”
    Does that mean –
    1. It was feathered immediately before separating and if so pilot did the right thing continuing to KSA
    2. Was feathered earlier on in the flight, where a diversion to a closer suitable airport (Wagga Wagga/Canberra/Goulburn/Camden/Bankstown) should have been considered/done by PIC
    Interesting.

  30. Resolute

    Finding out WHEN engine was shut down is vital,

  31. Resolute

    Not a good week for REX
    In Fight Engine Shutdown out of Dubbo today
    Perhaps this is 2 pieces of the puzzle in a larger picture ?

    1. Tango

      What aircraft type, what was the cause?

      1. Dan Dair

        SAAB A340.
        That’s all they operate.

  32. Ben Sandilands

    The underlying controversy in various forums concerning the BA incident was the effect of pilots subscribing to a ‘press on regardless’ culture, and one that valued those who loaded, or arrived with, the least fuel in the tanks.
    Whatever the truth of those concerns, the flight ended up costing BA far more than an immediate return to LAX, as the engine was reported as a total write off. Had it returned to LAX, the cost of the repairs, alternative passenger flight arrangements, and hotels, would have been considerably less than writing off the replacement value of the engine.

    1. JW (aka James Wilson)

      You’re suggesting the continuation of the BA flight caused the damage that resulted in the engine being written off? Not so, according to the AAIB investigation report. The initial problem was an engine surge caused by a high degree of wear to part of the high pressure compressor casing known as the ‘birdmouth’. The damage to the engine was actually caused by a software anomaly that resulted in over-fuelling and consequent over-temperature damage to the turbine blades and vanes during the surge event. The report states: “the [engine] manufacturer did not foresee further major damage resulting from windmilling an engine with damage similar to that sustained by G-BNLG’s No 2 engine for a period of 12 hours or more”.

      1. Ben Sandilands

        Read and understand my previous reply. Persevere to the end.
        (If you want to pick a fight the onus is on you to run around and educate yourself, I haven’t time to be your research assistant.)

        1. JW (aka James Wilson)

          I was not picking a fight and I certainly don’t need you to be my research assistant. I simply asked you to explain your earlier comments, which, frankly, don’t make sense. The engine is likely to have been written off regardless of whether the aircraft continued or returned, so it’s complete nonsense to imply that it would have been cheaper to return because “the cost of the repairs, alternative passenger flight arrangements, and hotels, would have been considerably less than writing off the replacement value of the engine”.

  33. Ben Sandilands

    JW,
    I wasn’t suggesting that. I was reporting that the costs of carrying on without having determined the cause of the failure by returning to LAX exceeded the costs of behaving with normal prudent airmanship. As the AAIB report allows us to conclude, not even the engine maker anticipated such a course of action, and why would they?

  34. JW (aka James Wilson)

    “…the costs of carrying on without having determined the cause of the failure by returning to LAX exceeded the costs of behaving with normal prudent airmanship.”
    How?

    1. Mick Gilbert

      JW, I don’t have a dog in this fight. Knowing what we now know about that flight – having to divert to Manchester due to lower than planned fuel remaining and the difficulties in balancing the fuel quantities in the four main tanks – based on your experience as a commercial pilot, do you think the decision to continue the flight after the initial IFSD was correct?
      And a variation on that question, would you have continued the flight under the same circumstances?

      1. JW (aka James Wilson)

        Mick,
        1. Diversions due to lower than planned fuel remaining can (and do!) occur on any long-haul flight, even when all the engines are operating. There are several enroute alternates available to aircraft crossing the north Atlantic if fuel becomes an issue.
        2. The problem the crew had in balancing the fuel was caused by their lack of understanding of the system, together with BA’s fuel balancing procedures, which were different to Boeing’s recommended procedures. It was not caused by a problem with the fuel system.
        From a technical perspective there was nothing wrong with the decision to continue. However, as I said to Ben below, I would have returned to LAX or landed somewhere else in the USA, mainly due to passenger & public perceptions. In addition to that, it would quite simply not be worth the hassle of suffering the firestorm of uninformed, negative commentary that would flow from the media and the Twitterati.

        1. Mick Gilbert

          Thanks for that, JW. I saw your response to Ben below just after I posted those two questions. It is interesting if not instructive how social media can shift the mindset from appraising problems and developing technically correct solutions to socially acceptable solutions. The difference between the former and the latter often times coming down to experience and knowledge, both generally sadly lacking in the Twitterverse.

  35. Ben Sandilands

    JW,
    This was a celebrated incident and the disagreement between the US authorities and the airline and the UK authorities were well covered in relevant parts of the general and technical media. I would have thought you were familiar with that controversy, although none of us can be all over more than a fraction of affairs in this game. The cost scenarios between a return to LAX, the replacement of the engine, and the repair of the replaced engine (which was not going to be notably difficult or costly at that initial stage of the problem) compared to the writing off of the investment in the damaged engine and its replacement were also well discussed. This was a very different incident to those like several Qantas A380 engine shutdowns some distance from Singapore en route to London, when abnormal indications led the captain to idle one engine before any more damage or problems might have arisen, and continuing to London safely and with the option of powering up the suspect engine should further changes in circumstances arise. There has been a great deal of technical discussion in the past of the contrast in engine problem management by Qantas on those occasions and this BA flight, which if I’m permitted an opinion, was the difference between intelligent and reasoned responses and pressing-on-regardless, with a very costly and unsatisfactory outcome.

    1. JW (aka James Wilson)

      I am well aware of the controversy surrounding this incident, but I don’t recall the subsequent discussion about cost scenarios. I’d be very interested to know if that discussion occurred before or after the AAIB investigation was published in 2006 (the incident occurred in 2005). In other words, was the discussion informed by the results of the investigation, or was it mere speculation? The AAIB report makes it clear that the serious damage was caused by an over-temperature of the turbine during the surge event; it was NOT caused by the continuation of the flight. The report also states “The engine manufacturer did not anticipate hazardous effects from prolonged windmilling of an engine that had been damaged during a surge event and then shutdown.”

      We are all entitled to our opinions and, for what it’s worth, I would have returned to LAX or at least landed somewhere else in the USA instead of pressing on across the Atlantic. Nevertheless, I think it’s extremely unfair to accuse this crew of ‘pressing-on-regardless’.

Leave a comment