On 9 December 2012, at about 1245 Eastern Daylight –saving Time, a Piper PA-39 aircraft, registered VH-RMA (RMA), departed on a private flight from Tamworth via Griffith, New South Wales, for Bacchus Marsh, Victoria. The pilot, the sole person on board, was ferrying the aircraft for a pre-purchase engineering inspection.

About 75 NM from Griffith, he prepared for a descent from 4,500 ft above mean sea level (AMSL) to 2,500 ft AMSL. He noticed an uncommanded decrease in the left engine revolutions per minute (RPM). He moved the left propeller lever to the maximum position, however, the RPM failed to respond, and the aircraft continued to descend.

The pilot initiated the emergency checklist for the left engine; however, the engine was unresponsive. To utilise all available power, he commenced the emergency checklist for the right engine. Almost immediately, the right engine began to vibrate severely, with a noticeable loss of power, and an increased rate of descent.

The pilot looked for a suitable forced landing area and broadcast his intentions. During the round-out, he decided to extend the landing gear. The propellers contacted the ground and the aircraft skidded to a halt. The pilot was uninjured and the aircraft sustained serious damage.

The reason for the reported performance loss on either engine could not be determined.

The Australian ‘Tribe’ of the International Comanche Society maintain a website for pilots who fly or maintain an interest in Comanche aircraft such as RMA. This keeps readers up to date with Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) airworthiness directives, and any other maintenance issues for the Comanche series of aircraft. They also conduct pilot proficiency programs on the type. Further information is available at


Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin - Issue 18