The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is keen to retrieve a propeller which came loose and flew off the right engine of a Regional Express (Rex) SAAB 340 as it approached Sydney Airport with 16 passengers and three crew aboard.
The turboprop aircraft has two engines, each with a propeller. The pilots reportedly noticed a vibration in one engine and were in the process of shutting it down, leaving the aircraft to fly on the other one. Suddenly the propeller of the faulty engine came loose and flew off across the wing.
Fortunately, the detached propeller, which is 3.3 metres in diameter with four blades, did not strike the tail section, essential in steering the aircraft.
Flight ZL768 from Albury landed safely at Sydney Airport and nobody was hurt.
The ATSB said it had deployed a team of three investigators with expertise in materials failure engineering, recorded flight data analysis, and human factors.
“Over the next few days, investigators will examine the aircraft, interview the flight and cabin crew, collect maintenance records and recorded flight data.”
The propeller is believed to have come off somewhere over Camden, southwest of Sydney. The ATSB issued the following plea: “Important: The ATSB urges anyone who finds a piece of suspected aircraft debris NOT to handle it. Please call the local police or the ATSB on 1800 020 616.”
The pilots made a Pan-pan call as the crisis unfolded. That indicates urgency but no immediate threat to life. It is less serious than a Mayday call.
Picture of engine of same type, GE CT7, in pristine condition (without propeller attached) on display at the Paris Air Show 2007
Audio logs obtained by ABC News show the pilots reacted calmly and professionally, telling air traffic controllers: “REX768 we’ve just had *inaudible* engine operations and our propeller has just sheared off.
“We’ve got normal controls, still be able to fly would require 1-6 right and we should be able to conduct a precautionary landing.”
Written by Peter Needham