Inadvertent application of opposing pitch control inputs by flight crew can activate the pitch uncoupling mechanism which, in certain high-energy situations, can result in catastrophic damage to the aircraft structure before crews are able to react.
Background to the safety issue
Initially, the ATSB was unaware of any other in-flight pitch disconnect occurrences on the ATR 42/72 series aircraft. As a result, the existing procedural risk controls were considered effective at maintaining a sufficiently low probability of a recurrence of the occurrence involving VH-FVR on 20 February 2014. As such, the ATSB did not initially consider that immediate safety action was necessary.
However, once aware of other in-flight pitch disconnect occurrences, none of which were because of a jammed system, it became apparent that the related procedural risk controls were not sufficiently effective. The likelihood of an inadvertent in-flight pitch disconnect has been demonstrated to be higher than the initial assessment suggested.