Aviation safety investigations & reports

Loss of control - Embraer S.A. EMB-120ER Brasilia, VH-ANB, Darwin Airport, Northern Territory, 22 March 2010

Investigation number:
AO-2010-019
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Summary

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On 22 March 2010, an AirNorth Embraer S.A. EMB-120ER Brasilia aircraft (EMB-120), registration VH-ANB, crashed moments after takeoff from runway 29 at Darwin Airport, Northern Territory, fatally injuring both pilots. The flight was for the purpose of revalidating the command instrument rating of the pilot under check and was under the command of a training and checking captain, who occupied the copilot's seat. The takeoff included a simulated engine failure.

Data from the aircraft's flight recorders was used to establish the circumstances leading to the accident and showed that the pilot in command (PIC) retarded the left power lever to flight idle to simulate an engine failure. That introduced a simultaneous failure of the left engine and propeller autofeathering system.

The increased drag from the 'windmilling' propeller increased the control forces required to maintain the aircraft's flightpath. The pilot under check allowed the speed to decrease and the aircraft to bank toward the inoperative engine. Additionally, he increased power on the right engine, and engaged the yaw damper in an attempt to stabilise the aircraft's flight. Those actions increased his workload and made control of the aircraft more difficult. The PIC did not restore power to the left engine to discontinue the manoeuvre. The few seconds available before the aircraft became uncontrollable were insufficient to allow 'trouble shooting' and deliberation before resolving the situation.

Shortly after the accident, an EMB-120 simulator and its staff were approved to undertake the operator's training requirements. In response, the operator transitioned the majority of its EMB-120 proficiency checking, including asymmetric flight sequences, to ground‑based training at that facility.

No organisational or systemic issues that might adversely affect the future safety of aviation operations were identified. However, the occurrence provides a timely reminder of the risks associated with in-flight asymmetric training and the importance of the work being carried out by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to mandate the use of simulators for non-normal flying training and proficiency checks in larger aircraft. In addition, the importance of appropriate operator procedures, and pilot awareness of the potential hazards were reinforced as risk mitigators where the only option was in-flight asymmetric training and checking.

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A computer graphics animation of the Flight Data Recorder data was produced.  The animation covered a 2-minute period commencing with the aircraft taxiing onto the runway and continuing until the end of recording.

 

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Preliminary

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Preliminary report released 19 May 2010

On 22 March 2010, at 1009 Central Standard Time, an Embraer - Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica EMB-120ER Brasilia with two crew, prepared to take off on a training flight from runway 29 at Darwin Aerodrome, Northern Territory. The crew were the only occupants. The training captain advised the aerodrome controller that the departure would incorporate asymmetric flight (simulated engine failure) and was approved by the controller to perform the manoeuvre.

After becoming airborne, witnesses reported seeing the aircraft roll and diverge left from its take-off path. They watched as the aircraft continued rolling left, and entered a steep nose-down attitude. It disappeared into trees, south of the runway threshold from where a column of black smoke was seen shortly afterwards.

Aerodrome rescue and fire fighting services were in attendance very shortly thereafter and extinguished the fire. Both pilots were fatally injured and the aircraft was seriously damaged due to impact forces and an intense post-impact fire.

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Photos

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General details
Date: 22 March 2010   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1010 CST    
Location   (show map): Darwin Airport   Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation  
State: Northern Territory   Occurrence type: Loss of control  
Release date: 23 February 2012   Occurrence class: Operational  
Report status: Final   Occurrence category: Accident  
  Highest injury level: Fatal  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Embraer-Empresa Brasileira De Aeronautica  
Aircraft model EMB-120  
Aircraft registration VH-ANB  
Serial number 120116  
Operator AirNorth  
Type of operation Air Transport Low Capacity  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Darwin, NT  
Destination Darwin, NT  
Last update 14 November 2018