Aviation occurrence briefs

Engine failure and ditching, Socata TB-20, 20 km west of Perth Airport, Western Australia, on 13 November 2021

Number:
AB-2021-029
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Brief

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 13 November 2021, a Socata TB-20 Trinidad aircraft departed Jandakot Airport, Western Australia at about 1510 local time, for a private flight with two people on board. The flight was intended to be a 30-minute flight along the coast, at an altitude of no more than 1,500 ft.

About 15 minutes after take-off, the pilot noticed the engine was running ‘rough’. Believing it similar to a previous experience of vapour lock, the pilot began the relevant procedure by turning on the electric fuel pump and switching fuel tanks. This alleviated the rough running, however the engine continued to feel ‘different than normal’, so the pilot turned to return to Jandakot. About 2 minutes later, the rough running returned and shortly after the aircraft’s engine lost power. The aircraft was at 1,000 ft, about 1 km offshore.

The pilot assessed that the likelihood of a successful landing inland (past the sand dunes) was remote due to the aircraft’s altitude and position. The beach was being heavily used by the public, so the pilot decided to ditch in the water, as close to the shore as possible, and away from swimmers. The pilot radioed Perth air traffic control to notify them of the engine failure and intent to commence a ditching. The pilot manoeuvred to flare and touch down at 65­—70 kt, which they judged to be the slowest safe approach speed, with landing gear retracted.

A forced landing was conducted approximately 50 m from the shore. The pilot and passenger sustained no injuries during the ditching and evacuation from the aircraft. The aircraft initially sustained cracks to the fuselage and was subsequently destroyed by wave action and salvage activities.

Figure 1: Aircraft wreckage

Figure 1: Aircraft wreckage

Source: Pilot of the aircraft

Pilot comments

The pilot attributed the successful outcome to their familiarity with the area and mental preparation, having previously considered the options available in a situation such as this. They also noted that prior research and discussion with other pilots gave them an understanding of how to minimise impact forces and the risk of becoming inverted during ditching.

Safety message

When experiencing a rough running engine, pilots should focus on flying the aircraft and continually assess landing options available in case of a complete engine failure during a turnback. Focus mainly on the arc where you would be able to land if the engine had fully failed — this is the current landing option. CASA recommends that scanning the environment should take 85% of the time available, 10% on checking aircraft attitude including lookout, and 5% of the time scanning of the altitude and airspeed indications.[1]

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.

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  1. ATSB booklet: ‘Avoidable Accidents No. 3 – Managing partial power loss after takeoff in single-engine aircraft’
General details
Date: 13 November 2021   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1530 Western Australia Standard Time    
Location   (show map): 11 NM west of Perth Airport    
State: Western Australia    
Release Date: 04 February 2022   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer S.O.C.A.T.A.-Groupe Aerospatiale  
Aircraft model TB-20  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Departure point Jandakot Airport, Western Australia  
Destination Jandakot airport, Western Australia  
Last update 04 February 2022