ATSB finds hitherto unknown dangerous part failure in REX flight that suddenly lost a prop
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.
Mar 20, 2017
A SAAB 340 similar to the REX plane did lose a propeller in similar circumstances 26 years ago
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.
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.
Mar 9, 2017
Don't expect the new airline lobby to bust airport parking rip-offs, but they may force runway and airspace upgrades
The new united front by Australian and New Zealand airlines to end their being mercilessly screwed by privately owned airports is seeking popular approval by identifying itself in the media as on the side of consumers victimised by such things as unjustifiably costly car parking charges.
It’s both a clever and welcome lever to use, even though the A4ANZ or Airlines for Australia and New Zealand website is much more focused on the neglect of airport infrastructure.
Although this is but Day One, a key issues that might engage A4ANZ would be curing Melbourne Airport’s vulnerability to long delays caused by adverse crosswinds by building a third runway ASAP.
Such a runway, which has been modelled in various forms by Melbourne Airport’s owners, would also ease peak hour congestion even when strong westerlies aren’t playing havoc with schedules.
There have long been mutterings from pilots and some operational people about the need for the Melbourne’s terminal airspace to be redesigned, something of potential attraction to the residents of suburbs affected by a concentration of traffic that approaches the main airport by overflying nearby Essendon airport.
REX or Regional Express appears to be something of the odd person out when in comes to the membership of A4ANZ. Not to put too fine a point on it, but REX’s tiny turboprops really get in the way of the bigger slot hungry ambitions of the other much larger airlines, and they’d probably like to see it dead.
The PR quote from REX’s Executive Chairman Lim Kim Hai is exquisitely constructed. He says “A4ANZ is critical for regional communities as major airports are all too ready to sacrifice critical regional interests.
“Rex looks forward to working with Professor Samuel and the Board to ensure the sustainability of all stakeholders big or small in the aviation industry.”
There is no chance that the likes of Qantas CEO Alan Joyce or his Virgin Australia peer John Borghetti will be seen shoulder to shoulder brandishing placards outside airport shareholder meetings, or responding to crises of “What do we want?” with a chorus line of “Another Melbourne runway”.
But a united front against the legacy of the dumbest and most ruinous privatisations in Australian history, that of monopoly gateway airports, might yet produce some fireworks.
Sep 8, 2016
Gliders and airliners keep just missing each other at country airports and the ATSB spells out the risks in this close call earlier in the year
To put it in tabloid terms, as many as 40 people came close to death in a near miss between a glider and a REX turbo-prop airliner near Orange in NSW in February this year.
However, the final ATSB report into this alarming incident, published today, makes it crystal clear that glider-passenger aircraft ‘proximity’ occurrences need even more work, and faster regulatory outcomes if their tabloid potential doesn’t end up in a bloody mess and dozens of ruined lives.
To summarise rather severely, the REX flight from Orange to Sydney (in a SAAB 340 which it configures with between 33-36 seats) had just begun its climb away from the regional airport when it took action to avoid a cumulus cloud which inadvertently took it between two Glaser-Dirks gliders crossing its departure track at close to a right angle.
The REX captain saw one of the gliders, took evasive action, and missed it, perhaps by as little as 100 metres, or the blink of an eye to revert to tabloid mode for a moment.
The ATSB report, which is both notably detailed, and prompt, in having been finalised in less than seven months, dissects the different glider and airliner pilot descriptions of what followed, as well as the various communications protocol challenges, which while technical in detail, are a work in progress between the gliding and airline fraternities.
Make that, hopefully, a more urgent work in progress. No fault is found, nor should have been. Good people are working on the problem. They just need to fix it faster than the next roll of the sky dice.
The ATSB references an unacceptable number of glider-airliner proximity events in Australia in recent times, and notes that they are on the rise. It points out that had the REX turbo-prop been on descent through cloud rather than climbing when it arrived on the scene, it might not have seen the nearest glider. Nor would its TCAS collision avoidance equipment have detected the gliders in its path and issued a resolution advisory.
This report is a fast and definitive response to an air safety problem that is getting worse. Will it have the intended effect? That’s the terrible question that hangs over its release.
Mar 13, 2015
The ATSB report also recounts other incidents in which airports have not been correctly visually identified by approaching airliners, including the 1989 incident in which an Austral
The ATSB has dissected the confused performance of two REX pilots who set up their SAAB 340 turbo-prop to land on a coal loader they had mistaken for Newcastle Airport in an incident in November 2012. Continue reading “REX turbo-prop confused coal loader for airport in Newcastle stuff up”
Jan 22, 2015
Amazing and inexplicable coincidences have come to light involving party political donations from REX, the owner of Pel-Air, in 2012, after a fierce internal disagreement had broken
Amazing and inexplicable coincidences have come to light involving party political donations from REX, the owner of Pel-Air, in 2012, after a fierce internal disagreement had broken out in that year in the ATSB over the conduct of its investigation of the ditching of a Pel-Air jet in 2009. Continue reading “Vague minister, generous airline, Pel-Air issues mount up”
The opening of Wellcamp airport, way ,way ,way to the west of Brisbane today, ought to strike fear into the heart of those who push grossly inflated prices for new transport infrastructure projects in Australia.
Or alternatively, deep envy at a political and public level. Continue reading “Why Wellcamp Airport is REALLY important”
Oct 15, 2014
Qantas continues to fly regular links between towns in Queensland where its story began in 1920 as a result of the state government's latest review and tender processes for its regu
Qantas continues to fly regular links between towns in Queensland where its story began in 1920 as a result of the state government’s latest review and tender processes for its regulated air routes. Continue reading “Qantas keeps its roots alive in Queensland airline services”
There is a non-airline industry aspect to REX announcing it will start flying between Sydney and Armidale three times daily from 28 March. Continue reading “REX to Armidale is about more than competition”
Feb 14, 2014
Will the Abbott Government find itself endorsing support for a Qantas which might, for example, announce multi billion dollar asset sales, like part of the frequent flyer program, or the Jetstar franchise?
Treasurer Joe Hockey made it clear yesterday in his ‘dragged kicking and screaming’ declaration of Qantas eligibility for government support that Cabinet would be looking carefully at the figures and other announcements the airline group will reveal on 27 February.
That’s the day when it announces its half year loss to 31 December, which it said on 5 December would be between $250-300 million, as well as updating the market on a review of its operations and progress in making $2 billion worth of cost savings.
Qantas group CEO Alan Joyce has also signalled that most of the initiatives Qantas will announce will not be popular.
They will extend beyond the 1000 job cuts already foreshadowed when Qantas made the abrupt transition from being ‘on track’ to international break even in guidance given in October to the huge loss making enterprise at the mercy of the Virgins in the December guidance that crashed its share price and cost its investment grade unsecured debt rating.
Which means that the reluctant Federal Treasurer is also going to feel some of the blowback from whatever else it is that Qantas announces on 27 February.
Will the Abbott Government find itself endorsing support for a Qantas which might, for example, announce multi billion dollar asset sales, like part of the frequent flyer program, or the Jetstar franchise, or the first born of all the senior management’s families?
There is little doubt that Qantas will get, and pay for, the debt guarantee it wants, and thus save on the cost of further borrowing to pursue its offshore adventures, and more domestic trench warfare based on the strategic genius that says excess capacity and low fares are a sure fire way of driving off competitors.
With the competitors joining in with similar retaliations.
Yet if Qantas does unpopular things, and embarks on asset realisations worth billions, the assistance given by the government may become a political negative.
Whatever Qantas does, the scrutiny of its management performance and strategic decisions will be more intense than ever.
In a radio interview this morning the Prime Minister Mr Abbott said there was no reason why the foreign ownership limits imposed by the Qantas Sale Act should remain.
Which raises the point that as soon as the government is able to get any such repeal or amendment of the act through both houses of parliament, there would be no further need for Qantas debt guarantees.
Feb 11, 2014
There is something very rotten about the Pel-Air crash, the treatment of its victims, and the conduct of CASA and the ATSB in relation to their respective duties to the public and to air safety.
The outbursts by REX in recent days claiming that the aviation sector could collapse without government assistance raises the question as to what Labor values it found so compelling in July 2012 as to cause it to donate $250,000 to the ALP.
It may well be of interest to the Coalition Government, too, since despite vocal support for its policies, both when in opposition, and after its defeat of Labor last September, the parliamentary register of political donation doesn’t, so far, register commensurate generosity toward the government of tough love toward businesses in trouble, whether car makers or airlines.
The REX rhetoric was strongly anti-Labor. Yet the REX money was pro-Labor.
In the last year for which there is a public record Regional Express gave $70,000 to the Liberal cause, $95,700 to the National cause, and a quarter of a million dollars to support, one might assume, Labor causes.
Except that REX doesn’t support the carbon tax, and its chairman, Lim Kim Hai, has made no secret of his detestation for Labor in general.
After the end-of-the-world commentary from REX burst into full fury yesterday Plane Talking sought in writing answers from the airline to a series of questions exploring the rural aviation crisis (which is not to be underestimated) and the company’s costly infatuation with Labor.
It was a pretty straightforward request, but it has gone unanswered.
Which raises the poor optics for REX of an over the top donation to Labor coincidentally when the ATSB was close to publishing its final report into the Pel-Air aerial ambulance charter crash of a Westwind corporate jet near Norfolk Island on November 2009.
Pel-Air is a subsidiary of REX. All six people on board the Westwind miraculously survived the ditching of the jet in the sea in the dark after it was unable to land at Norfolk Island for refueling on its way from Apia to Melbourne.
There may of course be absolutely no connection between the donation, and that report, which was so obviously deficient in integrity and diligence that it became the subject of a scathing Senate inquiry and report which the previous Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, and his successor, Warren Truss, seem incapable of addressing.
The Senate inquiry’s report includes an entire chapter devoted to the committee’s unanimous lack of confidence in the testimony of the chief commissioner of the ATSB, Martin Dolan.
In an incredible development, in as far as Senate committee inquiries go, the Senators concerned uncovered a secret document that CASA the air safety regulator had withheld from the ATSB, the safety investigator, in which CASA was told of the unsafe state of the Pel-Air operation at the time of the crash, and a lack of regulatory oversight which could have prevented the crash happening.
It is now more than four years since the crash. None of those injured in the accident have been compensated. None of the regulations which CASA said would be changed concerning the fuel and diversion rules for charters like that being flown by Pel-Air at the time of the crash have been changed.
One of the victims, nurse Karen Casey, who has lost her capacity to work, and has been in pain since the crash, and has three children, has yet to receive any recompense from Pel-Air.
There is something very rotten about the Pel-Air crash, the treatment of its victims, and the conduct of CASA and the ATSB in relation to their respective duties to the public and to air safety.
When REX asks for assistance from government, perhaps it could consider those who are asking for it to address the damage done to the victims of its unsafe operation of the Pel-Air charter, an operation so unsafe it voluntarily grounded it in the aftermath of the crash.
REX needs to explain what was so admirable in the Labor government it so publicly despised yet so generously supported at the time the donation was registered.
Jan 8, 2014
Anthony Albanese embraced the Qantas giveaway to Emirates, but now worries about foreign threats to Qantaslink? Very odd
In an interview on ABC News 24 this morning, ex Labor government transport minister Anthony Albanese linked a need to retain Qantaslink regional services to his concerns about the possible changing or abolishing of the Qantas Sale Act.
It may be that Albanese is hearing the same gossip as others that Qantas is threatening to break up the group and sell off parts of it if it doesn’t get its way and get a government bailout for its management failings under group CEO Alan Joyce, with the carrier officially headed for an unprecedentedly large loss in the first half to 31 December results.
Then again, Qantas according to other sources, can’t wait to sell everything not nailed down by the Qantas Sale Act, and would not like to have such an option denied to it for the price of a government debt guarantee now that it can’t raise more capital at attractive terms from either domestic or international sources.
But whatever inspired Albanese’s comment, there are some things to keep in mind about Qantaslink and competition in regional aviation in general.
Qantaslink is a blanket branding of a number of regional entities Qantas had previously collected, and its largest jet, the Boeing 717, is operated for it by the UK owned Cobham group in this country.
Qantaslink until recently exercised the power of being a monopoly service provider on many regional and resource industry routes, and had successfully run challengers out of towns when they stuck their heads up, such as Impulse Airlines when it was a small regional turbo-prop operation, and appeared to have a free pass under the ACCC of more than 10 years ago to crush new entrants with price cutting and capacity dumping.
However since the demise of Ansett in 2001 the rise of Singapore controlled REX Regional Airlines and most recently the acquisition of Singapore owned Skywest by Virgin Australia, and the expansion of rural passenger demand in general, Qantaslink has morphed into a competitive brand lacking its previous pricing power.
It now competes on its merits, rather than privileges, in many markets, with its Q400 turbo-props and 717s often facing off Virgin Australia ATR 72 turbo-props and Embraer E-jets.
The possibility that Qantaslink might be sold off in full or part to foreign owners, or even domestic players if the ACCC saw fit to allow such an outcome, isn’t a reason to deny Qantas the group the comfort of the same investment rules that allow Virgin Australia to be an up to 100% foreign owner domestic carrier which in turn owns an independent international air services subsidiary.
Whether such a modification or even repeal of the Qantas Sale Act would actually help Qantas is a moot point given the underperformance of its management.
But it wouldn’t mean an end to regional airline competition, and it wouldn’t necessarily mean a change of ownership or brand for Qantaslink, and it wouldn’t harm, indeed might enhance, the national interest, by lifting competition on country routes to a higher level.
Qantas itself has already sent the clearest of signals to Australians that it is OK to fly on foreign owned carriers by giving away its Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane rights to the kangaroo route to the world’s biggest foreign owned carrier Emirates.
If Qantas doesn’t think much of Australia deserves a national flag carrier on its once major routes to Europe, why on earth would Mr Albanese think regional Australia is any different?
For someone who celebrated the big Qantas giveaway to Emirates as Minister for Transport less than a year ago, Mr Albanese might care to explain what has changed since then?
Hot on the heels of REX announcing it will bid for the Moree flights that were licensed to Brindabella Airlines, which went bust last Sunday, Qantaslink is starting relief flights to the town, and jockying for more. Continue reading “Qantaslink sets out to prove a point about Moree”
No sooner written than done. REX is going to bid for three of Brindabella Airlines revoked licensed routes between Sydney and Moree, Cobar and Mudgee. Continue reading “REX to bid for some Brindabella routes”
It’s been one of those unseasonally perfect highland days with the cloudless blue sky crossed by barely audible tiny turbo-props bound to or from Sydney.
Many of them are SAAB 340s flown by Australia’s most profitable scheduled airline, REX or Regional Express, together with Qantaslink Dash 8s of varying models and Virgin Australia ATRs.
But while they are just isolated glints in the sun out here, they are a disproportionately huge problem at Sydney Airport, if you listen to what certain people involved in the airport have to say.
Back when Sydney Airport was privatised in 2002 a cast iron guarantee was given that regional flights would be accorded guaranteed and permanent access, including a range of peak hour slots that would allow country folk to make day return trips to the city for business or health reasons, as well as ensure effective connections to flights using larger jets.
Those promises were also accompanied by inextinguishable capacity limits to the airport, including a maximum of 80 combined arrivals and departures an hour.
At the time, to be blunt, no one in government or in the parties or even in the airport believed for a second that this wasn’t to turn into a very significant problem within a few years, as Sydney became increasingly dysfunctional and congested, despite mainline jets moving upscale to better use those slots.
The can, when it came to the absurdity of the original promises , was just kicked further down the road.
Now there are plenty of heavy handed hints that it’s time to break promises, or buy out the regionals, in order to sacrifice the bush for city interests, something that both sides of politics do all the time, even when protesting that they don’t.
But is it time for some crazy, way out, solution to the problem? This week REX said it was acquiring more SAAB 340 B Plus turbo-props, (subscription or clever Googling required) and in May it was listed as already having 46 SAABs of various types in service.
(As pointed out by reader Parkes, the report in The Australian mangles the details.)
It ought to be clear to everyone that REX is going nowhere other than to use its promised guaranteed rights to Sydney to the max. And much of its network is like an essential service for communities for whom there is no alternative but to fly.
Maybe it’s time to revisit the proposal by Bill Bradfield to build what has at times been loosely and inaccurately called an airport, a satellite regional airport perhaps, at Kurnell, but actually much closer to Towra Point.
Bradfield was a distinguished aviation administrator in the post war years in Australia. His vision is explored in this article.
As then reported:
This naturally involved linking the satellite airport to the main airport, and in my meetings with him before he died in 2006, Bradfield had in mind a road and possibly additional rail runnel that would link the Kurnell area to La Perouse by passing under the ocean entrance to Botany Bay and then on to Port Botany and the current airport as well as in effect extending Anzac Parade to the Cronulla-Sutherland peninsula.
Such a physical link between Kurnell and La Perouse would also suggest to transport planners the merits of completing the Eastern Suburbs Railway not just to Kingsford, one station past the UNSW campus, as originally intended, but linking it the metropolitan railway at Cronulla, creating road and rail links that would revolutionise the transport demographics of SE Sydney perhaps as much as the Sydney Harbour Bridge did by connecting North Sydney to the CBD by road, rail, and in the bridge’s earlier decades, by trams that ran where the Cahill Expressway lanes are today on the eastern side of the bridge.
The significance of such links weren’t lost on Bill Bradfield, whose father JJ Bradfield was the Chief Engineer of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Metropolitan Railway Construction project, overseeing the design and construction of the Sydney electric railway network and proposing the Manly Warringah and Southern Surburban lines among others, that were never built but for symbolic sections of tunnel at North Sydney station and in ghost platform foundations parallel to those of the eastern suburbs line platforms under Redfern Station.
There are of course problems with relieving the congenstion of the regionals on Sydney Airport with such a satellite. Sydney Airport’s political constrictions apply to the entire airport, so building new runways is pointless if the cap of 80 movements remains.
Doing a regional satellite strip and terminal (displaced to the west of the alignments of the two north-south parallel runways) means using common sense and goodwill to redefine that cap to apply to jet airliners of larger than say 99 seats capacity so that regional flights would leave Sydney, free up some capacity, and not be counted as part of the 80 movements an hour limit.
The curfew could remain. No one in the bush is going to fly to Sydney between 11 pm and 6 am.
However the biggest benefit would be to real estate and general public transport infrastructure. Cronulla-Sutherland badly needs an alternative rail link to the city via the UNSW and Bondi Junction and a new road approach.
A satellite relieving runway on the southern shores of Botany Bay would be good for the bush, good for congestion at Sydney’s existing airport, and a catalyst through the cross bay tunnel for substantial economic benefits.
With Sydney heading towards a population of 7-8 million by 2040-2050 it would not change the pressing need for a Sydney West airport at Badgerys Creek, where work should begin without delay. But the Botany Bay satellite strip would ensure than the existing airport, which isn’t relevant to western Sydney, would at least operate more efficiently.
Go on, damn it as a crazy silly preposterous suggestion. But it is nowhere near as crazy as putting up with the current situation for a day longer than necessary.
Aug 31, 2012
Want a strong share price and the missing magic ingredient, a dividend, in your Australian airline stocks? REX or Regional Express, is the answer.
Want a strong share price and the missing magic ingredient, a dividend, in your Australian airline stocks? REX or Regional Express, is the answer.
The statement reminds us that REX made more money ($35.1 million PBT) than Virgin Australia ($27.2 million PBT) flying incredibly small turbo-props around the country, to tiny towns where driving to a big city is variously, an expedition, or stupid.
Qantas might also claim that its fantastically profitable but undisclosed exact earnings in its domestic jets also exceeded those of REX hedge hoppers.
But it won’t because those figures are ‘commercial in confidence’, and when the flying kangaroo operation as a group blew $245 million in losses while the cattle dog brand rounded up $35 million, such provocation would be beneath its dignity.
Jul 30, 2012
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 u
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 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.
In another case of keeping a very serious aviation incident away from media attention the ATSB has buried its investigation of how a REX SAAB 340 taxied into the path of a smaller aircraft taking off from the Taree strip in NSW on 23 March into the obscurity of a compendium of short reports.
The incident involved a light aircraft, a Van’s RV-10 kit assembled design with room for four people, which was taking off when a REX Regional Express flight with seats for 36 people including two pilots and a flight attendant that was headed for Grafton turned onto the runway ahead of it.
The pilot of the RV-10 elected to continue his take-off and flew over the top of the SAAB with a clearance of about 90 metres.
Taree was not operating as controlled air space at the time, but relying on the cheap but potentially lethal practice known as CTAF or a common traffic advisory frequency by which the pilots of everything from recreational aircraft to scheduled airliners can ‘self separate’ by advising anyone listening on the right frequency of their intentions, and keep out of each other’s way.
In the narrative of the short, obscure, let’s hope the press doesn’t read this report, the ATSB establishes that both pilots had functioning radios, and were, according to the pilots, using them correctly to determine if any other traffic was in the area.
The ATSB says it is at a loss as to how, despite this, they ended up in a situation where they could have flown into each other, causing an accident which if both aircraft had been full could have killed 40 people.
The light aircraft had broadcast its intention to takeoff from runway 22 prior to entering the runway and heard no other traffic on the frequency. After completing the pre-takeoff preparations the pilot announced “rolling runway 22 Taree” on CTAF and commenced takeoff.
When the aircraft accelerated through about 50 knots the passenger seated in the front seat pointed an aircraft out that was approaching the runway holding point. The pilot expected the aircraft to stop at the holding point and given they were nearly airborne continued takeoff. Still no CTAF broadcasts were heard in the cockpit.
Just when the aircraft accelerated through 65 knots and became airborne about 1/4 to 1/3 down the runway the pilot observed the other aircraft move past the hold short line and turn right onto runway 04. The pilot assessed it was the safest option to continue the takeoff and estimated they were passing directly over the other aircraft at about 300 feet.
This is where luck was on the side of REX, it passengers, and those on the RV-10. They were all a few seconds lucky. Hesitation, ineffective braking, or engine performance, could all have so easily caused a disaster.
In its investigations the ATSB could only reconstruct a partial record of the CTAF broadcasts by each aircraft by listening to incomplete recordings picked up in Port Macquarie.
The captain of the REX turbo-prop also said that he might not have spotted the RV-10 visually because of the glare or lack of contrast between the smaller aircraft and a line of trees.
CTAF has been a factor in a series of dangerous incidents in Australia over many years, but is passionately defended by regional operators as being inexpensive, and by many pilots as how-it-has-always-been-done. Discussions about CTAF can quickly degenerate into a meeting of minds between the ruthless and the foolish. It can, and probably will, kill on a large scale as scheduled aviation and recreational or private aviation increasingly impinge on each other’s turf.
It is precisely the sort of discussion most regional aviation interests, including the airlines, and aviation regulators have tried to play down for years, and this is what the ATSB has facilitated by folding it into a collection of supposedly minor incidents.
The ATSB makes some safety observations at the end of this report, including the following.
Pilots should never assume that not hearing other CTAF broadcasts means an absence of CTAF traffic.
To its credit, despite burying its findings, that line in the ATSB report gives the lie to the risky nonsense put out by some scheduled airlines, and AirServices, and the safety authorities, about CTAF.
In short, CTAF doesn’t come with any safety guarantees at all. It doesn’t necessarily tell pilots what other pilots are doing.
It is nothing more than a regulatory and cost cutting gamble, it is inherently deadly, it shouldn’t be tolerated where it includes jet airliners and turbo-props, and it shouldn’t be hushed up.