Pilots of single-engine aircraft are at greater risk of having an accident following a partial engine power loss than they are of a full engine failure, according to the ATSB.

A partial engine power-loss occurs when the engine provides less power than that commanded by the pilot.

ATSB General Manager Strategic Capability, Mr Julian Walsh, says partial power loss is actually a more complex situation than a complete failure, and it can be much harder to manage.

"The pilot is in a situation where the engine is still providing some power, but it may be unreliable, and the available power level might be difficult to assess," Mr Walsh says.

"As a result, pilots are uncertain about their aircraft's capabilities, and what their options are - a situation that can turn into disaster very easily."

"The good news is that through a range of strategies, presented in the ATSB's latest publication, pilots can avoid these accidents."

These are:
•    Form a plan before flight of what you will do if faced with a partial power loss
•    Conduct thorough pre-flight checks
•    Following any power loss, take positive action and maintain control of the aircraft.
Up until now, partial power losses have been a largely unexplored topic in aviation. This is despite partial power loss events occurring three times more frequently than complete engine failures during takeoff and initial climb.

From 2000 to 2010, there were 242 accidents reported to the ATSB involving single-engine aircraft sustaining a partial engine power loss after takeoff. Nine of these were fatal, mostly involving pilots losing control of the aircraft after an aerodynamic stall. This is in contrast to only 75 accidents (none of which were fatal) occurring after a full engine failure after takeoff.

The ATSB booklet Managing partial power loss after takeoff in single-engine aircraft, is the latest publication in the ATSB's 'Avoidable Accidents' series.

Media contact: 1800 020 616
Last update 27 June 2011