Aviation safety investigations & reports

In-flight deployment of ditching dam involving De Havilland Aircraft of Canada DHC-8, VH-SCE, 80 km south-south-east of Whyalla Airport, South Australia on 8 August 2019

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

Final Report

Download final report
[Download  PDF: 162KB]

What happened

On the afternoon of 8 August 2019, a De Havilland Aircraft of Canada DHC-8-315 was being operated by QantasLink on a flight from Adelaide to Whyalla, South Australia.

The flight proceeded normally until just after top of descent when a loud repetitive banging noise started in the cabin. The cabin crew decided to break the protocols for the sterile cockpit environment to inform the flight crew, via the interphone, of the abnormal noise. The flight crew could not hear the noise in the cabin and were unaware of the situation.

Further investigation by the cabin crew identified that the noise was coming from the vicinity of the right rear emergency exit at seat row 10. They then identified a yellow object flapping on the outside of the aircraft, just below the exit. The flight crew concluded that the right ditching dam had likely deployed. The decision was made to continue to Whyalla, where an uneventful landing was conducted.

After landing, it was confirmed that the right rear emergency exit ditching dam had opened in flight, and had been destroyed by aerodynamic forces.

What the ATSB found

The operator subsequently determined that the ditching dam had not inflated but rather, for reasons that could not be determined, the ditching dam cover had opened in flight, allowing the uninflated dam to unfurl into the slipstream. The opening of the ditching dam did not affect the safety of other aircraft systems or the continued flight.

The cabin crew informing the flight crew of the issue while the aircraft was on descent had the potential to be a distraction. However, the cabin crew’s decision to break the sterile cockpit environment and alert the flight crew to the situation was appropriate.

Safety message

Not every system in an aircraft is controllable or monitored by the flight crew. Cabin crew should not hesitate to inform flight crew of abnormal conditions within or external to the cabin, as flight crew may be unaware of the situation.

Download final report
[Download  PDF: 162KB]

The occurrence

General details
Date: 08 August 2019   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1445 CST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 80 km SSE of Whyalla Airport   Investigation phase: Final report: Dissemination  
State: South Australia   Occurrence type: Airframe - Other  
Release date: 14 May 2020   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Minor  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Bombardier Inc  
Aircraft model DHC-8-315  
Aircraft registration VH-SCE  
Serial number 602  
Operator Eastern Australia Airlines  
Type of operation Air Transport High Capacity  
Sector Turboprop  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Adelaide, South Australia  
Destination Whyalla, South Australia  
Last update 23 June 2020