A Dynaero aircraft’s partial power loss soon after take-off from Serpentine Airfield, WA created a demanding, time-critical situation prior to a fatal collision with terrain, an ATSB investigation report outlines.
On the afternoon of 28 December 2020, the single-engine Dynaero MCR-01 light aircraft took off from Serpentine Airfield, south of Perth, to conduct a post-maintenance check flight.
About 300 ft above ground level, the aircraft’s engine began to run rough, but continued to operate. The pilot commenced a turn to the left, and the aircraft appeared to decelerate in a nose-high attitude without gaining height.
Shortly after, the aircraft was observed to aerodynamically stall, pitch nose-down, and impact terrain. The pilot, who was the sole occupant, was fatally injured, and the aircraft was destroyed.
The ATSB investigation’s final report notes this accident is another reminder of the challenges pilots face in the event of a partial power loss after take-off, as detailed in the ATSB’s Avoidable Accidents handbook.
“Partial engine power loss is a more frequent, and a more complex occurrence than complete engine power loss,” ATSB Director Transport Safety Dr Stuart Godley said.
“The ATSB encourages pilots to review the recommended partial power loss procedure in their aircraft’s pilot operating handbook, and cautions against attempting to turn back towards the runway under reduced power unless in controlled situations where sufficient altitude exists."
The ATSB found multiple maintenance tasks in the aircraft’s return to service after a significant period of inactivity were not adequately carried out, and that the left carburettor of the aircraft’s engine was missing a component, and contained a significant amount of contamination.
“This likely resulted in over-fuelling of the carburettor at a low power setting, and likely produced subsequent engine rough running at higher power settings,” Dr Godley explained.
Additionally, the ATSB found the pilot was unfamiliar with the aircraft and engine type, which increased the risk of not being able to adequately manage an inflight emergency.
The ATSB also found the pilot had probably consumed a significant amount of alcohol the night before the accident, which increased the risk of post-alcohol impairment.
“Blood-alcohol can persist the day after significant alcohol consumption, and the residual effects of alcohol may impair performance, especially in demanding and time critical situations,” Dr Godley concluded.
Read the report: AO-2020-065 Partial power loss and collision with terrain involving Dynaero MCR-01 VLA, VH-SIP near Serpentine Airfield, Western Australia, on 28 December 2020