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Jetstar turns back after clipboard blasts through engine

February 28, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A Jetstar A320 was forced to turn back on an international flight after a ground crew’s clipboard, including paperwork, was sucked through one of the plane’s engines and shredded during takeoff. 

The bizarre incident on a trans-Tasman flight last October came to light yesterday in a report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).

The mishap could have been dangerous. The plane’s right-hand engine was turned for a second into the ultimate high-power paper shredder – but it shredded more than paper as the clipboard and its metal clip went through the fan blades as well, chopped into multiple pieces and scattered on the runway.

It all started on a wet and windy evening in Auckland. The ground crew was organising paperwork before takeoff and as it was raining, the leading hand decided to put his clipboard in the right engine cowling to stop the paperwork from becoming wet and windblown. His intention was to retrieve it later.


Just before takeoff, the dispatcher conducted the ‘duty of care’ walk-around. During the walk-around, she noticed the clipboard in the right engine – but she thought the leading hand would return for it, so she continued with the walk-around. Soon after, the engines started.

The ATSB continues the story: “When the aircraft was taxiing, the leading hand realised his clipboard with the paperwork was missing and thought the dispatcher had the paperwork.

“The leading hand asked the dispatcher about the clipboard and she mentioned she saw it in the right engine during the walk-around. The ground crew returned to where they were preparing the aircraft and noticed paper debris on the ground. The ground crew organised for their operations area to contact the flight crew.”

By this time, the plane had taken off. The flight crew received a radio call from Auckland air traffic control.

“The captain handed control of the aircraft to the first officer and contacted the surface movement controller who advised that the ground crew had lost their paperwork and it may have been placed on the engine.


Foreign object debris on the ground behind the aircraft (circled)

“The captain requested further information about the paperwork, specifically whether the paper was on top of the engine or inside the inlet. The flight crew checked the engine instruments and there were no abnormal indication. The surface movement controller confirmed that the paperwork was placed within the inlet and paper debris was found on the tarmac.

“The captain then contacted the company engineer at the airport and asked whether it was just paperwork or a clipboard with a metal clip. The engineer advised that a piece of sheared metal had been found. The flight crew decided to return to Auckland.

“After landing at about 2048, the engine was inspected by engineers and paper was found throughout the engine. They also found minor damage to an engine fan blade and attrition liner.”

As a result of this incident, Jetstar Airways released an updated aircraft dispatch procedure, which included:

  • A specific warning about not placing items in the engine cowling
  • Improved detail around checks and responsibilities
  • A section on emergency and non-normal procedures
  • Detailing methods for re-establishing communications between ground crew and flight crew such as visually gaining the attention of the flight or contacting them via radio.

ATSB executive director transport safety Nat Nagy says the incident highlights the need for everyone operating near the aircraft to take ownership of reporting foreign objects.

“It is easy to think that someone else will report or remove a foreign object, but that kind of thinking usually just increases the risk that it won’t get done.” Nagy said.

Both Jetstar and the ground-handling operator, Aerocare, have taken steps to educate staff about their reporting responsibilities concerning foreign objects. Jetstar has also updated its aircraft dispatch procedures to provide more detailed information about aircraft checks and responsibilities.

Written by Peter Needham

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