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Collision on the ground after partial power loss

Collision on the ground involving a Piper PA-28, VH-TXH and a Cessna 172, VH-EUU Moorabbin Airport, Victoria

A light aircraft collision between a Piper PA-28 and Cessna 172 shows why it’s crucial to manage and respond to partial power loss immediately. 

Summary

On 11 April 2015, a Piper PA-28 aircraft suffered engine problems after take-off and the student pilot attempted to return immediately to Moorabbin Airport.   As the Piper landed, it touched down about one third of the way along the runway. The pilot attempted to slow the aircraft and its left wing collided with the tail of a Cessna 172 aircraft, which was waiting on an adjacent taxiway.

The pilot of the Piper was not injured but the pilot and passengers of the Cessna were treated for minor injuries. Both aircraft sustained substantial damage.

The incident was a good example of how quickly things happen; about 90 seconds after an aircraft took off it was back on the ground and at least two aircraft had to be sent around in the interim.

The ATSB advises that a pre-flight safety brief that considers actions to take following a partial power loss after take-off, will give pilots a much better chance of maintaining control of their aircraft and of responding immediately. The ATSB publication Avoidable Accidents No. 3 – Managing partial power loss after takeoff in single-engine aircraft gives more information to pilots.

Incident in detail

On 11 April 2015, the student pilot of a Piper PA-28 aircraft, registered VH-TXH, taxied at Moorabbin Airport, Victoria, for a solo flight to the local training area. At about 1136 Eastern Standard Time, the aerodrome controller – east, cleared the Piper for take-off.

At about 1137, the pilot of a Cessna 172 aircraft, registered VH-EUU, contacted the surface movement controller and requested a clearance to taxi for a local private flight, with three passengers on board. The surface movement controller cleared the Cessna to taxi to runway 35R via taxiway A, and the pilot began taxiing.

The pilot of the Piper reported that the take-off run was normal, but after rotation, the engine intermittently ran roughly, and then regained full power. At about 1138, the pilot advised the aerodrome controller - east of engine trouble and requested a return to land. The controller observed that the Piper did not appear to be climbing out normally and was then quite low, and offered the pilot runways 22 or 31 if required. The pilot elected to use runway 22.

The aerodrome controller – east advised the surface movement controller and the aerodrome controller – west of an aircraft with engine trouble, and coordinated with the surface movement controller for runway 22. At about 1139, the aerodrome controller – east cleared the Piper to land. The pilot of the Cessna conducted a tight right turn towards runway 22 and the aircraft touched down about one third of the way along the runway. The aerodrome controller – east and the surface movement controller observed that the Piper appeared to be travelling too fast to stop before the end of the sealed runway.

The pilot of the Piper assessed that he was not going to be able to stop the aircraft before the end of the sealed runway, but that there was a suitable grassed overshoot area beyond. The aerodrome controller – west was standing up, sighted the Cessna on taxiway A, and alerted the surface movement controller. As the Piper approached the end of runway 22, the pilot sighted the Cessna on taxiway A to his right, and veered to the right in an attempt to pass behind the Cessna. The surface movement controller directed the Cessna to stop. The pilot of the Cessna braked immediately and sighted the Piper, but assessed that if he stopped there, the Piper would collide squarely with the Cessna, so he released the brakes and progressed forwards. The left wing of the Piper then collided with the tail of the Cessna.

The pilot of the Piper was not injured. The pilot and passengers of the Cessna were treated for minor injuries. Both aircraft sustained substantial damage.

A post-accident inspection of the Piper’s engine found a small quantity of oil on the cylinders and some fouling of the spark plugs which may have led to the rough running.

Safety message

The ATSB publication Avoidable Accidents No. 3 – Managing partial power loss after takeoff in single-engine aircraft, found causes of partial power loss after take-off include fuel starvation, spark plug fouling, carburettor icing and pre-ignition conditions. A pre-flight safety brief that considers actions to take following a partial power loss after take-off, gives pilots a much better chance of maintaining control of the aircraft and of responding immediately. Such actions include landing immediately within the aerodrome, landing beyond the aerodrome, and conducting a turn back towards the aerodrome.

Read more about the ATSB investigation report AO-2015-036

 
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Last update 19 June 2015