Aviation safety investigations & reports

In-flight smoke in the cockpit involving GIE Avions de Transport Regional ATR72, VH-VPJ, near Williamtown Airport, NSW, on 22 February 2017

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

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On 22 February 2017, at 1433 Eastern Daylight-saving Time, Virgin Australia ATR 72-212A, registered VH-VPJ, departed Port Macquarie Airport, New South Wales (NSW) to operate scheduled flight VA1188 to Sydney, NSW. There were four crew and 23 passengers on board.

At 1453:35, during cruise at Flight Level (FL) 180, the Centralized Crew Alerting System (CCAS) alerted the flight crew to a failure of the number one static inverter. 

At 1453:43, the cockpit master warning activated and the CCAS displayed an electrical smoke warning. The flight crew immediately donned oxygen masks and enacted the smoke checklist memory items. As the flight crew fitted the oxygen masks, they detected a strong electrical type burning odour and observed faint wispy smoke within the cockpit. After conducting the memory items, the flight crew then completed the electrical smoke checklist. The checklist included selecting the avionics vent exhaust mode to overboard. After completing this selection, the flight crew reported the smoke quickly dissipated.

After completing the electrical smoke checklist, the captain identified Williamtown Airport about 65 km (35 NM) south east of the aircraft and elected to divert the flight to Williamtown.

At 1455, the captain contacted air traffic control (ATC) and declared a MAYDAY.  The captain advised that they intended to divert to Williamtown Airport. ATC cleared the flight to descend and track directly to Williamtown.

As the aircraft descended through 10,000 ft, the flight crew removed their oxygen masks. The captain found the remaining odour very strong and elected to refit the oxygen mask. While approaching runway 12, the captain found the oxygen mask blurred their vision. The captain briefly handed control of the aircraft to the first officer and removed the oxygen mask.

The aircraft was not damaged and no persons were injured during the incident.

This incident underlines the value of effective training and procedures. Despite the communications difficulties and the inaccessible cabin preparation cards, the cabin crew were able to effectively prepare the cabin during the diversion and manage the subsequent precautionary disembarkation. This enabled all aircraft occupants to disembark the aircraft quickly and without injury.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin Issue 61

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General details
Date: 22 February 2017   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 14:56 ESuT   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): near Williamtown Airport    
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Smoke  
Release date: 27 July 2017   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer ATR-Gie Avions de Transport Régional  
Aircraft model ATR72-212A  
Aircraft registration VH-VPJ  
Serial number 1169  
Operator Virgin Australia Airlines  
Type of operation Air Transport High Capacity  
Sector Jet  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Port Macquarie, NSW  
Destination Sydney, NSW  
Last update 14 November 2018