Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Update on the Airnorth crash at Darwin

by B. N. Sullivan

Airnorth VH-ANBThere are some new developments regarding the Airnorth Embraer 120 Brasilia that crashed at Darwin, Australia earlier this week. The accident, which happened on the morning of March 22, 2010, claimed the lives of both pilots; there were no passengers on board.

A statement from Airnorth on March 22, 2010 described the accident flight as a "routine training flight." Airnorth said that both pilots were experienced flying this aircraft, and that it had "encountered difficulties on takeoff and crash landed at Darwin Airport."

The following day another media statement was released by Airnorth in which the airline's CEO, Michael Bridge, said, in part:
“What I can say is that the training that was being conducted is a mandated element of our recurrent training program for this type of aircraft.

“Airnorth has world’s best practice training procedures in place and we are always working to enhance them. Accordingly, when Australia’s first EMB 120 simulator came on line mid last year, we immediately began moving through the accreditation process with both the simulator operator and CASA. This is well underway.

“Simulator training allows manoeuvres to be practiced repeatedly and can enhance the training process. A significant amount of Airnorth training is already conducted using flight simulators. Even when Airnorth completes the simulator accreditation process some in-flight training will still be required.

“There is currently no full flight simulation training aid available anywhere in the world for this type of aircraft and as such there will always need to be a component of in-aircraft training."
Although he didn't say so directly, this part of Mr. Bridge's statement may have been in response to reports that the crew were practicing a simulated engine failure at takeoff (EFATO) when the accident occurred. Some in the aviation community believe that this kind of maneuver should be practiced only in a simulator rather than in actual flight. Airnorth reportedly does not train EMB 120 pilots in simulators.

An article on the Web site of the Northern Territory News quotes a man identified as a "senior transport and safety investigator" who said, ""When you're simulating the failure of engines and other parts, you obviously have a greater risk than in normal operations."

A short time ago the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) released a statement to the press reporting that they had recovered the flight data and cockpit voice recorders from the wreckage of the accident aircraft. The devices have been transported to the ATSB's technical facilities in Canberra for analysis.

The ATSB also released several photos of the accident site, including the one shown on this page. Here is the link to the page on the ATSB's Web site where you can find official information about the Airnorth EMB 120 accident investigation; links to the photos that have been released are near the bottom of that page.

A preliminary factual report about this accident is expected to be issued by the ATSB in about 30 days.

[Photo Source]