Aviation safety investigations & reports

Piper PA38-112, VH-PCF, 8 km SSW of Werribee VIC, 22 August 1987

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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During climb, at about 2500 feet, a loud noise was heard from the engine coincident with a power loss and severe vibration. The choice of suitable forced landing areas was restricted by the strong wind and the terrain features. The aircraft touched down 188 metres from a fence and levee banks either side of a narrow irrigation channel. An attempt to avoid the fence and levee banks by overflying to an adjacent paddock was unsuccessful because of low airspeed. The aircraft collided with the levee, catapulted over the channel and came to rest 15 metres beyond. It was determined that the loss of power was due to a spark plug, complete with heli-coil, becoming dislodged from the Number 1 cylinder. The cylinder had been installed on the engine 7 flying hours previously, after being repaired by an approved organization. The most probable cause of the defect was overtorquing of the spark plug during installation, thereby damaging the tapped alloy of the cylinder into which the heli-coil had been screwed. With this thread damaged, the spark plug was able to vibrate to further damage the alloy thread. Exhaust gas escaping between the tapped thread and the heli-coil accelerated the damage process until eventually the spark plug was ejected by engine combustion pressures.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 22KB]
General details
Date: 22 August 1987   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 940    
Location: 8 km SSW of Werribee    
State: Victoria    
Release date: 14 June 1988   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Serious  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Piper Aircraft Corp  
Aircraft model PA-38  
Aircraft registration VH-PCF  
Serial number 38-78A0788  
Type of operation Flying Training  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Departure point Point Cook VIC  
Departure time 0940  
Destination Point Cook VIC