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The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has praised the efforts of an aircraft's crew for landing safely after a propeller sheared off mid-flight last year.
On March 17, a Regional Express flight from Albury carrying 16 passengers and three crew members was forced to make an emergency landing at Sydney Airport after one of the propellers flew off, narrowly avoiding hitting the body or wing of the plane.
The Saab 340 was about 102 kilometres south-west of Sydney Airport when the pilots noticed vibrations coming from the right engine. They began the engine shutdown procedure, but the propeller sheered off, forcing the crew to issue a PAN PAN call - one step down from a Mayday emergency.
The plane landed safely about midday that day, and, four days later, the propeller was found in dense forest about 19 kilometres south-west of the airport.
At the time, aviation watchers said the pilots had "used all of their luck getting out of that situation".
"They were a hair's breadth away from a disaster. I don't know how the hell it didn't damage the aircraft as it went past," Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association president Paul Cousin said.
In their final report, the ATSB said the crew "worked together well" in using their checklists and with help from air traffic control.
"The crew did not make any rapid decisions, and ensured that all options were considered before action was taken, including consideration of the go-around requirements due to weather," the bureau said.
"These factors combined to contribute to a positive outcome for the aircraft."
The ATSB also recommended more checks of certain aircraft components to prevent similar incidents from occurring.
The bureau found the propeller sheered off the engine mid-flight due to a fatigue crack in one of the shaft's components.
It also found the engine manufacturer's maintenance manual did not include instructions to inspect for fatigue cracking, and operator inspection sheets did not have space for recording any potential issues.
"Consequently, this may not have provided for the best opportunity to ensure potential defects were identified, recorded and monitored," the bureau said.
After the incident, the engine manufacturer sent out bulletins requiring immediate inspection of the propeller shaft.
Regional Express also immediately removed five other aircraft with the same propeller gearboxes and shafts from services so they could be examined.
The ATSB said the incident highlighted the fact that plane components such as the propeller shaft could develop defects and fail mid-flight, and that good crew training provided "the best opportunity for a positive outcome in the event of such a failure affecting flight safety".
That is very lucky indeed it didn't hit the plane or wing
Some pilots have all the luck, and some got to the end of the luck queue just a little too late.