Aviation safety investigations & reports

Engine malfunction and return involving Bombardier DHC-8-315, VH-XKJ, Perth Airport, Western Australia, on 23 April 2019

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed
Phase: Final report: Dissemination Read more information on this investigation phase

Final Report

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What happened

On 23 April 2019, a De Havilland Aircraft of Canada DHC-8-315, registered VH-XKJ and operated by Skippers Aviation, was conducting a charter flight from Perth Airport to the Duketon Gold Mine, Western Australia.

Shortly after take-off, the flight crew heard a banging sound and detected a reduction in power from the left engine. At about the same time, the pilot flying experienced a yaw through the aircraft controls. The crew also noted a gradual reduction in right engine power. The flight crew elected to conduct a return to Perth Airport, where an uneventful landing was conducted.

What the ATSB found

Following the occurrence, both engines were inspected and erosion damage was noted to the high‑pressure turbines. While both engines displayed erosion damage, the damage to the left engine was more pronounced. The erosion damage to the turbine likely disrupted the airflow through the left engine, inducing the symptoms reported by the crew and recorded in the aircraft flight data.

The decision not to shut down the malfunctioning engine immediately allowed the flight crew to concentrate on continuing the climb, during a period of increased workload. The left engine responded to an increase in power. However, the crew elected to return to the departure airport.

The ATSB determined that the gradual reduction in power on the right engine was not likely the result of a mechanical issue in the engine.

Safety message

A partial power loss presents a more complex scenario to flight crew than a complete engine failure. The engine is still providing some power, however the power may be unreliable and the reliability may be difficult to assess. This occurrence highlights the benefits of timely and appropriate flight crew action in response to a power loss on take-off.

In this case, the affected engine appeared to return to normal operation, however the flight crew continued with the return. Abnormal engine operation, even if only transient, can be an indication of a developing fault and therefore the safest course of action is to discontinue the flight as soon as possible.

Download final report
[Download  PDF: 313KB]
Alternate: [Download  DOCX: 458KB]

The occurrence

General details
Date: 23 April 2019   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0615 WST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Perth Airport   Investigation phase: Final report: Dissemination  
State: Western Australia   Occurrence type: Engine failure or malfunction  
Release date: 23 July 2020   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Bombardier Inc  
Aircraft model DHC-8-315  
Aircraft registration VH-XKJ  
Serial number 588  
Operator Skippers Aviation  
Type of operation Charter  
Sector Turboprop  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Perth, Western Australia  
Destination Duketon Gold, Western Australia  
Last update 23 July 2020