ATSB opens investigation into Regional Express in-flight engine shutdown

written by australianaviation.com.au | September 3, 2019
A file image of Regional Express Saab 340B VH-RXX. (Seth Jaworski)
A file image of Regional Express Saab 340B VH-RXX. (Seth Jaworski)

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has commenced an investigation into a Regional Express (Rex) in-flight engine shutdown on a flight from Moruya to Merimbula.

The incident on flight ZL139, operated by Saab 340B VH-RXX, occurred on August 29 2019.

“Flight crew reported that after receiving an engine fire indication, the right engine was procedurally shut down,” the ATSB said in a short summary on its website published on Monday.

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“The aircraft proceeded to Merimbula and made an uneventful landing.

“The ATSB will interview the flight crew and review the available recorded data.”

Rex said in a statement on Friday there was a cockpit sensor alert associated with the aircraft’s right engine and the flight crew conducted the applicable checklist actions in accordance with the manufacturer’s standard operating procedures.

“Upon completion of all the checklist actions, the cockpit sensor alert ceased,” Rex said.

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Further, Rex said its engineers had inspected the aircraft engine and confirmed there was “no evidence of an engine fire”.

“The Saab 340 aircraft is designed and certified to climb, cruise and land safely on one engine,” Rex said.

Flight tracking websites indicated the aircraft has not flown since the incident and remains at Merimbula.

Notwithstanding Rex’s statements indicating there was no engine fire, at least one of the passengers on the flight said he saw sparks and flames from the right-hand engine.

Julian Boot told The Guardian Australia he was staring at the engine and initial saw a “couple of bright sparks coming out”.

“Then, literally, the engine erupted in a ball of fire with a big bang,” Boot was quoted as saying. “It wasn’t that I heard the noise and looked out the window, I was staring right at it.”

“It was a continual burning fire for about five minutes. It wasn’t just red from heat, it was flickering. Engines if they’re glowing don’t flicker.”

The ATSB said its investigation was expected to be completed by March 2020.

In July 2019, Rex denied reports it had a poor safety culture.

At the time, the airline said the baseless allegations were made by a “disgruntled engineer” regarding matters that had been put before both the Fair Work Commission and Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

Further, Rex said CASA had given the airline the all clear after completing a two-day audit of the airline’s maintenance facility at Wagga Wagga on July 4 and 5, where its staff interviewed engineers and audited its safety management system.

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