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air safety

Apr 13, 2017


REX minus prop at SYD, photo Grahame Hutchinson

Regional airline REX appears was blindsided by a previously unknown flaw in an engine gearbox when a propeller came off one of its SAAB 340 turbo-prop aircraft while it was approaching Sydney Airport with 19 people on board on March 17.

None of the maintenance requirements REX was following in servicing a particular sub-set of its SAAB 340 fleet even required it to look at the component that failed, according to a preliminary report just released by the ATSB.

But that is about to change, with the ATSB warning similarly at-risk-airlines world wide of the fault.

The propeller that came off the aircraft when it was over the Macarthur area not only missed hitting vital control surfaces on the wing or tail of the small commuter aircraft, but then crashed to earth near houses when it came down in a bushland reserve in the Revesby area.

The ATSB says that the cracks and corrosion that were apparent in photos of the aircraft after it landed safely at Sydney Airport started within the so-called mounting flange of the propeller’s gear box, before spreading to a shaft section.

The propeller shaft had then fractured, leading to the separation of the propeller.

It found corrosion and pitting in a dowel pin bore in the engine, and describes the process in considerable detail by which this then led to the ultimate breaking free of the propeller.

The ATSB report says this is the first known critical failure of this type initiating within the propeller hub flange of a GE Aviation CT7-9B engine. It points out that the same propeller gear box is fitted to the widely used CASA CN-235 utility turbo-prop. It warns that any corrosion or cracking within the bore may go undetected until it progresses to the surface of the flange.

The safety investigator has outlined extensive additional work that it will have to conduct before it can issue a final report.

air safety

Mar 20, 2017


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.

air safety

Mar 13, 2015



Jul 30, 2012


The REX, my way or the highway page one Rural Press story

Regional Express chairman Lim Kim Hai runs a much admired and very successful airline, but has a public relations calamity on his hands after correspondence between himself and an unhappy customer was published in the Southern NSW newspaper, The Area News.

These are the opening paragraphs of its main story on the dispute:

LOCAL leaders have demanded Rex issue an immediate apology to a visiting cardiologist rebuked by the airline’s chairman during a public relations crash-landing last week.

Leading Sydney cardiologist Dr Charles Thorburn has threatened to boycott Rex and end his 20-year relationship with Griffith after a valid complaint letter to the airline’s Singapore-based boss was met with an “arrogant and offensive” response.

In a return letter bordering on high farce, a Rex employee – acting on instruction from chairman Lim Kim Hai – questioned and ridiculed Dr Thorburn, even asking if he offered refunds for heart patients who “do not get well after seeing you”.

The letter that Dr Thorburn sent to Lim as published by The Area is here, and the REX chairman’s return salvo, in which he told the cardiologist that REX owed him nothing, is here.

The exchange reads like a ‘my way or the highway’ argument. REX is the only airline of size that operates from Griffith. But customers would still save time going to Sydney if they were sufficiently annoyed to drive to Wagga Wagga and fly Qantaslink.


Jun 8, 2012


Australia’s largest stand alone regional airline, REX or Regional Express, has cancelled its frequent flyer loyalty program and blamed the Gillard Government for bringing it to the verge of ruin.

This is how it broke the news on its website this morning.

Dear Customer

Regional aviation is facing its greatest fight for survival come 1 July 2012 as draconian government measures translate into astronomical cost increases, which for Rex alone amounts to more than $5 million per year. To put this into perspective, this would be equivalent to the Qantas Group facing a $300 million cost increase, which is more than the $200 million profit the Qantas Group posted last financial year.In order to ensure that the majority of its regional network continues to be serviced, Rex has to implement a series of radical initiatives to reduce the cost base.  One of the most painful we are compelled to take is the termination of the Rex Flyer program.

With immediate effect, existing memberships will not be renewed at expiry date and neither will any new members be accepted.  Members are strongly encouraged to check the membership expiry date online at As per the Terms & Conditions, only points accrued by the expiry date will count towards the reward flight. Any reward flight earned will need to be redeemed and flown within 6 months of the date earned.

Rex would like to take this opportunity to thank all members for their support over the last 9 years.

Before the leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, rushes out to the nearest REX hangar to pose in front of one of its stricken SAAB 340 turpo-props, some perspective is offered.

REX is a very smart, very savvy, and very profitable airline, and delivers an outstanding service.

But it does live on a knife edge, as it always has, in that with room for no more than 33 passengers per flight, and sometimes less, it only has to see a drop off of two or three passengers, or a decline in yields or margins to have a route pushed into loss.

Conversely, it only has to win a few passengers per flight to make an overall profit margin that Qantas or Virgin Australia managers dream about, if they could apply them to jets that fly with hundreds of seats at a time rather than dozens.

REX also has no real competitors on many of its routes, other than the remote risk that customers might actually drive to Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide, which over much of its network, is a costly and time consuming option that doesn’t really make sense.

The REX loyalty program was a number of things.

It was by far the most honest and straightforward. You earned a free flight for every ten flights, just like getting a free haircut at the barbers, or a special deli reward at your favourite country bakery.

While the Qantas and Virgin Australia schemes offer much flashier rewards, they are also much harder to get, they come with more conditions than a farmer’s mortgage, and they have largely morphed into data base selling programs rather than reward programs, especially as they make increasing amounts of money out of third parties like grocery chains and bank cards and create points to reward people who needn’t ever fly with Qantas as a paying passenger in order to compete with some schmuk who mistakenly thinks buying Qantas fares earns the entitlement to first dibs on a free seat.

Nah, nah and nah. The last thing modern complex loyalty programs reward is loyalty.

This makes the loss of the honest and simple REX program the sadder.

But somewhere in REX someone no doubt did the sums and worked out that Gillard Government or no Gillard Government, its loyalty program was costing it too much to retain customers it wasn’t likely to lose anyhow, since driving is seldom an option, and where there was a Qantaslink alternative, it would take an extraordinary frequency of flying between Wagga Wagga and Sydney to qualify for anything.

The bottom line is that REX understands how tough the regional aviation environment has always been during its nearly 10 years of operations, and taking decisions like this is why it has survived and prospered in a sector that has annihilated the hopes and fortunes of dozens of would be country airlines.


Nov 23, 2009


Special safety audit after Norfolk ditching

(CASA statement)

A special audit of two air operators is being carried out by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority following the ocean ditching of a Westwind jet near Norfolk Island last week.

CASA is auditing elements of the operator of the aircraft, Pel-Air Aviation, as well as Regional Express Pty Ltd. Pel-Air is a member of the Regional Express group.

The special audit will look at a range of areas that may relate to the ditching of VH-NGA on Wednesday 18 November 2009.

CASA’s special audit is being carried out in addition to an investigation of the accident by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. The CASA audit will not pre-empt the findings of this investigation.

Areas to be examined include fuel policies and practice, flight planning, in-flight operations during changing weather conditions, the check and training of pilots, safety management systems and the inter-relationships between Pel-Air and Regional Express.

CASA has already written to the companies requiring a range of relevant documentation to be supplied.

A request has also been made to interview the pilots of the aircraft that ditched.