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occurrence AO-2010-043

  • Todd
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Todd created the topic: occurrence AO-2010-043

I was just on the ATSB website reading the preliminary investigation report of occurrence AO-2010-043 of VH-PGW, The plane that crashed 6 km north-west of Bankstown on the 15 June this year.
Such a tragic situation!
I always ask myself ‘what would I have done differently?’ and the un-nerving answer, in this case, is ‘probably not much.’ I may have chosen Richmond instead of Bankstown but I do understand the appeal of landing at a familiar airport where your car is parked and probably a spare plane too.
At 7600ft in a turbocharged twin, only 2 POB, one engine shut down and feathered and only about 25NM to run on a cool morning. I can understand why the pilot thought that he could make it back.
The one thing that crossed my mind while I was reading the sequence of events is that ATC (although doing their job exactly as they should) really should ask “can you hold your height?” when a pilot has an engine failure in a twin or a partial failure in a single.
The controller who managed this situation immediately gave PGW clearance for descent back into Bankstown. The clearance was initially down to 4000 from memory but was re-cleared to 2500 then ‘as required’ with no level sectors. The pilot would have been getting close to 3NM Bankstown and down to circuit height before pushing his one remaining throttle lever forward only to find that there was nothing left in it.
I’m really not trying to point a finger here. It looks to me like the controller did everything perfectly by the book but I really think that ‘the book’ should prescribe a brief performance test. “Are you able to maintain height?” I think that the controllers should also be able to insist on a diversion or at least strongly recommend one. The controller would not have get-there-itis, nor would he be overcome with panic and making poor decisions.
Any thoughts?
Todd
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bobtait replied the topic: Re: occurrence AO-2010-043

I have read the report and I agree that it is difficult to understand how that aircraft with such a light load and a low density height environment was unable to maintain height with one engine feathered. There should have been more than adequate power to enable a safe return to Bankstown. The pilot was experienced and current on the type so there's no reason to believe that he would have mishandled the situation that badly. It seems likely that there was a problem with the other engine, and when witnesses say they heard the engine surging it does make me wonder about fuel. The only thing common to both engines is fuel, and surging is a classic symptom of a fuel problem.

As far as the controller goes I believe he did exactly what he should have done. It has long been established that in an emergency the pilot in command must make the command decisions. That has always been the situation and it is fundamental in all pilot training programs. The controller is in no position to offer instructions or even advice since he/she has not got the full picture. In hindsight it seems the best option would have been Richmond but the pilot was probably confident of making Bankstown and by the time he realised he couldn't it was too late to take the Richmond option.

We may never know just why the incident had such a tragic ending.
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