Procedures and training leads to safe landing for unexpected engine failure by birdstrike

A birdstrike and engine failure occurrence, at Gold Coast Airport, demonstrates that preparation, training and proper procedures help flight crews respond to rare and unexpected situations.

AirAsia X Airbus A330

Shortly after take-off, the flight crew of the AirAsia X Airbus A330 were alerted to an engine stall in the number two engine. At the same time a loud banging noise was heard. In response, the flight crew commenced their engine stall procedures and made a PAN PAN call.

The crew were then alerted to an engine failure and fire in the same engine. The crew commenced their engine failure procedures and upgraded the distress phase to a MAYDAY and requested a diversion to Brisbane Airport. The aircraft was diverted and landed safely. There were no injuries.

The ATSB investigation found the engine failure was the result of a birdstrike by a masked lapwing that had fractured a small piece from the tip of one of the engine’s fan blades. A lapwing is a medium sized bird—weighing between 0.23–0.40 kg.

ATSB Executive Director of Transport Safety, Mr Nat Nagy, said it was rare for a birdstrike to lead to engine failure.

“Scenario testing by the manufacturer indicates this occurrence was a rare combination of the height of the fan blade at which the birdstrike occurred, the angle the bird struck the fan blade and the aircraft and engine speeds,” Mr Nagy said. “It is very unlikely a similar event would reoccur, and extremely unlikely that it would occur on multiple engines at the same time.

“Aircraft engines, like the one involved here, are certified to withstand ingestion of a bird of this size.

“Airlines still need to ensure they have robust emergency procedures in place, supported by training and regular proficiency checks, to help flight crews respond appropriately to events like this.”

“By following their procedures, having good communication and falling back on their training, this flight crew managed to respond appropriately and produce a safe outcome from such a rare and unexpected event,” Mr Nagy said.

Read the final report, AO-2017-070: Birdstrike and engine failure involving Airbus A330, 9M-XXT Gold Coast Airport, Queensland, on 3 July 2017

Last update 02 May 2018