Total power loss–Be prepared to act immediately

One of the greatest concerns for pilots operating single-engine aircraft is the prospect of a total power loss at night. Should such an event occur, it is crucial that pilots are mentally prepared to act immediately. 

 On 6 July 2012, a Gippsland Aeronautics GA-8 Airvan aircraft departed Tennant Creek on a night training flight to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. 

After monitoring a gradual drop in the oil pressure, the crew began planning for a diversion to the Ti Tree aeroplane landing area (ALA). The instructor had flown into the ALA the previous week and successfully used the pilot activated lighting (PAL) system.

At about 2000, the engine oil pressure light illuminated, necessitating an immediate landing. The crew diverted to the Ti Tree ALA and attempted to activate the runway PAL system, without success. 

Shortly after, near the township of Ti Tree, the engine began to run rough and subsequently stopped. 

When the instructor noticed a vehicle travelling on a road to the north of the town, the crew elected to abandon the landing at the unlit ALA and, following the vehicle’s lights, carried out a successful landing onto the Stuart Highway.

The crew were faced with an engine failure at night in a remote location, which was further exacerbated by the unsuccessful activation of the PAL runway lighting system at the Ti Tree ALA. 

By quickly changing their plan, the crew made a successful landing on a road, without injury or damage to the aircraft. This incident demonstrates how a quick response to an adverse situation can result in a positive outcome.

Read the ATSB investigation report AO-2012-092

ATSB’s Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin highlights valuable safety lessons for pilots, operators and safety managers.


Last update 04 January 2013