ATSB Virgin Australia ATR 72 Risked Crashing for Five Days

16th Jun 2016

The second ATSB report on Virgin Australia's ATR 72 which luckily avoided a major catastrophe on 20th February, 2014 during its flight, some 47km West-South West of Sydney Airport, claims that the danger for its passenger and crew didn't end there, but that there were at risk for another five days, as the Australian low cost carrier operated another 13 flights with it.

According to ATSB, an ill-advised action of the two pilots at the time, where they applied opposite pitch inputs to raise or lower the nose of the plane, could have had damning consequences for the crew and 68 passengers on board.

Fortunately, the ATR completed its flight, with only a serious leg injury suffered by one of the cabin attendants. Virgin Australia then proceeded to fly the airplane for a few more days, until it finally grounded it at Albury Wodonga.

The ATSB claims in its report that the airplane's airframe was at constant risk of failure from the moment the initial incident happened.

ATSB tests showed that the vertical load of the wing was reached, while its bending moment was exceeded. Also, the vertical load on the plane's horizontal stabilizers was exceeded, as well were the engine mounts.

In a statement, as a response to the ATSB findings and report, Virgin Australia said this afternoon:

"Safety is Virgin Australia's number one priority and it is important to note that this aircraft landed safely during this event. Following this incident we immediately implemented a number of risk controls over and above the manufacturer's recommendations. The aircraft manufacturer also conducted a full review of our ATR 72 fleet which fond it was safe to continue operations. This investigation is ongoing and we will comment further upon the release of the final report."

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said that it has decided to release this report and focus on the "pitch disconnect event" because:

"A safety issue has been identified that, in the interest of safety, needs to be brought to the attention of the industry before the investigation is completed."