Correcting the Record

Inaccuracies in reporting of an ATSB investigation In-flight pitch disconnect involving an ATR 72 aircraft

14 July 2016

The article by Martin Aubury, ‘Luck stops an air disaster waiting to happen’, published in several Fairfax publications on 11 July 2016 contains factual errors and misunderstandings. In the interests of ensuring truth and transparency, the ATSB considers it necessary to correct the record. In the article, Mr Aubury cites the ATSB’s on-going investigation into an in-flight pitch disconnect involving a Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA) ATR 72 aircraft while descending into Sydney, NSW on 20 February 2014.

Mr Aubury claims that it took the ATSB several years to publicly report its investigation into the incident. In fact, the ATSB published an initial web update on its investigation on 10 June 2014. A second, interim report was published on the ATSB’s web site on 15 June 2016.

Mr Aubury’s article also claims the ATSB’s interim report ‘understates the seriousness of what went wrong’ and says little about why the damage to the aircraft was not found on the ground for five days.

The ATSB’s investigation into this incident is still ongoing. As discussed in the interim report, the ATSB’s investigation activities to date have included the collection and analysis of maintenance documentation and procedures of the operator and the maintenance organisation. ATSB is also examining the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s surveillance and approvals involving the operator and maintenance organisation. ATSB is further involved in on-going enquiries and discussions with the aircraft manufacturer in France (ATR), the safety investigation agency in France (BEA), and the European regulatory authority (EASA). ATSB is further involved in on-going dialogue with neighbouring States who have operators utilising the ATR42 and ATR72 aircraft.

The ATSB’s interim report was intended to provide factual information and analysis associated with the identified safety issue. That safety issue highlighted the risk of inadvertent and opposing activation by flight crew of the aircraft’s elevator control system in certain high-energy situations.

The ATSB’s final report (expected to be released in December this year) will provide a comprehensive analysis and findings of all areas investigated, including into maintenance issues.  

This is a complicated investigation with several areas requiring thorough analysis.

The ATSB is disappointed that this article was published without the author seeking comment, amplification, explanation nor clarification from the ATSB in relation to this investigation.

Last update 24 August 2016