Aviation occurrence briefs

Propeller failure involving Piper PA-32, Bankstown Airport, NSW, on 21 February 2019

Status: Completed
Investigation completed


Occurrence Briefs are concise reports that detail the facts surrounding a transport safety occurrence, as received in the initial notification and any follow-up enquiries. They provide an opportunity to share safety messages in the absence of an investigation.

What happened

On 21 February 2019, a Piper PA-32 6XT departed Orange, New South Wales (NSW) to conduct a private flight to Bankstown, NSW with two crew on board. During approach, at approximately 900 ft above mean sea level at Warwick Farm, the crew detected a vibration. The crew declared a PAN-PAN[1] to Bankstown tower requesting priority landing. The tower cleared the crew for a straight in approach to runway 11L. The aircraft landed without incident and taxied to parking.

The post-flight inspection revealed the cause of the vibration was due to a 20 cm section missing from one of the propellers. Following the incident, the engineer suspects the likely cause of the propeller section breaking off was due to a stone chip, which developed into a crack as a result of engine operation, which caused stress on the propeller, which subsequently resulted in the propeller failing during flight.

Figure 1: Missing propeller section

Missing propeller section of Piper PA-32

Source: Pilot in Command

Safety message

It is important that pilots remain aware that despite conducting comprehensive pre-flight checks, unanticipated failures can still occur during flight. The crew, in this instance, took all possible precautions by following non-normal procedures, providing clear communications to ATC and landing the aircraft as soon as possible.

About this report

Decisions regarding whether to conduct an investigation, and the scope of an investigation, are based on many factors, including the level of safety benefit likely to be obtained from an investigation. For this occurrence, no investigation has been conducted and the ATSB did not verify the accuracy of the information. A brief description has been written using information supplied in the notification and any follow-up information in order to produce a short summary report, and allow for greater industry awareness of potential safety issues and possible safety actions.



  1. PAN-PAN - The radiotelephony message PAN-PAN is the international standard urgency signal that the crew on board an aircraft uses to declare that they have a situation that is urgent but, for the time being at least, does not pose an immediate danger to anyone's life or the aircraft itself.
General details
Date: 21 February 2019   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1743 EDT    
Location   (show map): Bankstown Airport    
State: New South Wales    
Release Date: 29 April 2019   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Piper Aircraft Corp  
Aircraft model PA-32-301XTC  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Minor  
Departure point Orange, NSW  
Destination Bankstown, NSW  
Last update 31 July 2019