Recent practice of emergency procedures helped a pilot conduct a successful forced landing, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has found.
On 14 May 2018, a Gippsland Aeronautics GA-8 Airvan departed Bellburn airstrip in Western Australia on a scenic charter flight. On board were a pilot and seven passengers. Approximately 12 minutes after departure, as the pilot commences a planned climb from 2500 feet to 3500 feet, he felt the aircraft’s performance become sluggish with lower climb and lower fuel flow rates than expected.
The pilot started troubleshooting and conducted various checks, but the aircraft’s performance did not improve. As engine power started to slowly decrease, the pilot concluded that a forced landing was required.
At 150 feet above ground level, the pilot secured the engine and turned off the aircraft’s electrical system. During the landing roll, the Airvan’s wings hit some small trees and the aircraft stopped in a ditch, tearing off the nose landing gear. The pilot and three passengers sustained minor injuries.
The ATSB report on the incident found that the air intake pipe to engine cylinder number six had probably detached in flight, leading to the loss of engine performance. However, there was insufficient evidence to determine why the intake pipe detached from the engine.
The pilot said that recent practice of forced landings had helped him in the emergency. In particular, he said, the practice gave him a good appreciation of the aircraft’s glide ratio, which helped when selecting a suitable landing site. The ATSB said ‘the pilot’s handling of the forced landing contributed positively to the survivability of this accident in difficult terrain’.
The ATSB’s safety message from this investigation is the value of frequent emergency procedures training. Although flight reviews are required every two years as a minimum, the ATSB reminds pilots and operators of the benefits of more frequent practice of emergency procedures.