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On 10 October 2016, a QantasLink Bombardier DHC-8-402, registered VH-LQM, conducted a scheduled passenger flight from Melbourne, Victoria, to Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. On board the aircraft were two flight crew, two cabin crew and 70 passengers.

During the pre-flight briefing at Melbourne Airport, the flight crew noted there was severe turbulence and severe mountain wave turbulence on the weather forecast for their descent and approach to Canberra. They briefed the cabin crew to be prepared for a quick cabin service and that the seat belt sign would be activated early on the approach due to the forecast turbulence.

On descent into Canberra, the captain activated the seatbelt sign and reduced the aircraft speed to the best speed for turbulence penetration. During the descent, the flight crew did not observe any weather radar indications of potential turbulence or visible indications from the shape or movement of the clouds. However, at about 7,000 ft AMSL, while passing through a small cloud, the aircraft dropped abruptly. The flight crew reported that everything in the flight deck became airborne, the autopilot disengaged and the captain struck the left side of their head on the overhead air-vent and light.

The flight crew continued the approach without further incident and notified Canberra air traffic control of their severe turbulence encounter. The captain received minor injuries.

This incident highlights the importance of flight crew preparation for entry into an area of forecast turbulence and the importance of ensuring the correct adjustment of all harness straps. The flight crew’s preparation for the forecast turbulence minimised the risk of injury to personnel and damage to the aircraft.

Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 56

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General details
Date: 10 October 2016 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 12:40 ESuT  
Location   (show map):Canberra Airport SW 72 km Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Australian Capital Territory Occurrence type: Turbulence/windshear/microburst 
Release date: 17 January 2017 Occurrence class: Environment 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Serious Incident 
 Highest injury level: Minor 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Bombardier Inc 
Aircraft model: DHC-8-402 
Aircraft registration: VH-LQM 
Serial number: 4450 
Operator: Sunstate Airlines 
Type of operation: Air Transport High Capacity 
Sector: Turboprop 
Damage to aircraft: Unknown 
Departure point:Melbourne, Vic.
Destination:Canberra, ACT
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Last update 14 November 2018