The ATSB has been unable to find out what caused a Cessna 172 to crash into a Melbourne suburban street, killing its pilot, despite a near-two year investigation.
Anthony Liddell, 50, shouted “we’ve got engine failure” before his aircraft nose-dived 680 metres from Moorabbin Airport. Witnesses described hearing the engine sound like a “lawnmower struggling to start” as the plane came down, and a post-impact fire destroyed the Cessna.
Australian Transport Safety Bureau director Stuart Macleod said the investigation was unable to determine the reason for the engine power loss, but urged pilots to formulate a pre-prepared emergency plan to be put in action when encountering similar situations.
“Proficiency in in-flight emergencies can be improved by regularly practicing these emergencies,” said Macleod. “Additionally, flying the approach as per manufacturer and airport procedures places the aircraft in the optimum configuration and position.”
At 5:10pm on 8 June 2018, the pilot of a Cessna Aircraft Company 172S, Anthony Liddell, was returning to Moorabbin Airport, Victoria, following a one-hour private flight.
The trip was conducted following maintenance, which included a scheduled engine change. The pilot, and sole occupant, was also one of the licensed aircraft maintenance engineers that had conducted some of the recent work on behalf of the aircraft owner.
While the Cessna was on its final approach to the runway, and at about the time it was cleared to land, witnesses on the ground observed the aircraft a little lower than expected and described hearing the engine “spluttering” and “struggling”.
The pilot transmitted a mayday call, shouting “We’ve got engine failure.”
Shortly after, witnesses observed the aircraft’s left wing and nose drop, consistent with an aerodynamic stall.
The aircraft smashed into the ground in a residential street about 680 metres from the airport. The pilot was killed and a post-impact fuel-fed fire subsequently destroyed the aircraft.
There was minor damage to one house and a car, but no injuries to people on the ground.
The ATSB examined the aircraft’s engine, its components and fuel system, but was unable to determine the reason for the reported engine power loss.
The investigation also found that when control of the aircraft was lost, there was insufficient height to recover.
“The loss of engine power while on final approach presents a scenario where there may be limited forced landing options, especially when there is insufficient height to glide to the airport,” concluded Macleod.
“This is particularly relevant where the approach is over built-up areas, such as at Moorabbin Airport.”