Loss of Control: Familiar Territory

 - February 29, 2012, 8:44 PM

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau last week published the final report on a March 2010 crash of an EMB-120 Brasilia during an in-flight training exercise at Darwin Airport. The crash killed both pilots, the captain and an instructor who was evaluating that pilot’s flying abilities.

The accident points out–once again–the dangers of conducting flight-training maneuvers in the aircraft while close to the ground. The instructor pilot was acting as the first officer during the evaluation, which included a simulated engine failure on takeoff. Engine failures in any aircraft close to the ground, can become life threatening because they often leave little room for human failures along the way.

The Brasilia’s flight data recorders showed that the left power lever was retarded just after takeoff, which should not have been a surprise to the pilot. The safety report says, “That introduced a simultaneous failure of the left engine and propeller autofeathering system.” The windmilling prop increased overall drag, made worse by the pilot’s failure to maintain flying speed, despite adding power to the right engine.

The instructor allowed the maneuver to go too far before attempting to recover and the aircraft–never climbing higher than 350 feet above ground level–entered a descending left turn and crashed just off the airport.