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On 31 December 2007, at about 1600 Eastern Daylight-saving Time, an Airbus Industrie A320-200 aircraft, registered VH-VQT, was being prepared at Bay C8 at Melbourne Airport, Vic. for a scheduled flight to Newcastle, NSW. The flight crew was in the cockpit preparing the aircraft for the flight, the passengers were boarding the aircraft and the ground handlers were loading and unloading baggage and other items.

The pallet loader operator reported that, after a period of normal operation, an electrical burning smell was detected in the area of the loader's engine compartment. The supervising leading hand noticed a fire in that compartment and alerted the operator to dismount the pallet loader. The pallet loader operator detached the fire extinguisher from the loader and extinguished the fire.

The ignition source for the fire was most probably intense electrical arcing within the pallet loader engine's starter motor solenoid.

As a result of this incident:

  • the Aerodrome Emergency Planning Advisory Group undertook to:
  • - modify its Aerodrome Emergency Plan format to include relevant on-apron emergencies
    - examine the leadership aspects of turn around operations as they might affect on-apron emergency planning.

  • the ground vehicle maintenance provider issued a Service Bulletin requiring the immediate inspection of the condition and routing of the starter motor wiring loom in all similar pallet loaders.

As a result of this, and a second fire in a similar pallet loader that occurred at Adelaide Airport on 27 May 2008, the operator retrofitted all of its affected pallet loaders with a replacement starter motor that significantly reduced the risk of electrical arcing.

Download Final Report
[ Download PDF: 166KB]
General details
Date: 31 December 2007 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 1600 ESuT  
Location   (show map):Melbourne Airport Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Victoria  
Release date: 14 November 2008 Occurrence class: Operational 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Airbus Industrie 
Aircraft model: A320 
Aircraft registration: VH-VQT 
Serial number: 2475 
Type of operation: Air Transport High Capacity 
Damage to aircraft: Nil 
Departure point:Melbourne, Vic.
Destination:Newcastle, NSW
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Last update 14 November 2018