News: Pitot probe covers the focus of safety advisory notice for operators at Brisbane Airport

The ATSB has issued a safety advisory notice to all operators flying to Brisbane Airport to consider the use of pitot probe covers there and to have rigorous processes in place to confirm the covers are removed before flight.

Pitot probe

The release of the safety advisory notice comes after the publication of the ATSB’s preliminary report into an airspeed indication failure on take-off involving Airbus A330, 9M-MTK, Brisbane Airport, Queensland on 18 July 2018.

The ATSB found that local engineering support crew placed covers on the pitot probes soon after the previous landing. Inspections during the aircraft’s turnaround did not identify their fitment and they remained on the aircraft for its departure. This resulted in unusable airspeed information being displayed to the flight crew. The flight crew continued the take-off and carried out several checklists before returning to Brisbane Airport.

ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood said unobstructed pitot probes are critical to flight safety.

“This is a serious incident. The CCTV footage reveals that the three pitot covers were in place on the aircraft as it pushed back from the terminal and as it accelerated down the runway,” Mr Hood said.

“This limited the amount of information – the critical information – that is available to flight crew during the take-off and during the short flight, up to 10,000 feet, and then the return to Brisbane Airport where the aircraft landed safely.”

"The CCTV footage reveals that the three pitot covers were in place on the aircraft as it pushed back from the terminal and as it accelerated down the runway."

Several high-capacity aircraft have departed from Brisbane with one of the pitot probes blocked by insect nests in recent years, including two that resulted in rejected take-offs investigated by the ATSB.

The airport has had a wasp eradication program since 2006 and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and Airservices Australia have issued advice about the risk they pose, with some operators now using pitot probe covers for short turnarounds.

“Today we are issuing a safety advisory notice to all operators to take particular care and review their procedures for the fitment of pitot covers on landing at Brisbane Airport and ensure their processes are robust for the removal of these covers prior to flight,” Mr Hood said.

“Our investigation is continuing. We will be focusing specifically on the procedures for flight crew and ground crew in relation to the pre-flight checks for the aircraft, and also the cockpit warning systems received by the flight crew as they accelerated down Runway 01.”

Read the preliminary report AO-2018-053

Read the Safety Advisory Notice

Last update 16 November 2018