Regional Express responds to propeller falling off plane on Albury to Sydney flight by grounding five aircraft

Under scrutiny: The Regional Express SAAB 340 which lost its engine on a flight from Sydney to Albury on Friday. An investigation has been launched and five similar planes have been grounded.
Under scrutiny: The Regional Express SAAB 340 which lost its engine on a flight from Sydney to Albury on Friday. An investigation has been launched and five similar planes have been grounded.

FIVE planes have been withdrawn from service by Regional Express after a propeller fall off during a flight from Albury to Sydney on Friday.

The grounding of the aircraft is expected to cause delays to flights with two of the planes from Melbourne and one from Sydney.

The other two belong to Rex’s freight subsidiary Pel-Air.

The five planes belong to the same series of the SAAB 340 model which is used by Regional Express throughout its network.

The airline stated it “decided, by abundance of caution, to immediately remove from service and quarantine all propeller gear boxes and shafts of the same series as that of the incident for further inspection and testing if warranted”.

The move comes as the Australian Transport Safety Bureau continues to probe the incident which saw the plane lose its propeller about 19 kilometres from Sydney late Friday morning.

The ATSB, which has deployed three investigators, is expected to produce a preliminary report on its inquiries within a month.

Rex’s chief operating officer Neville Howell praised the crew for their efforts in landing the plane which had 16 passengers.

“The crew demonstrated enormous composure and discipline under extraordinary circumstances, and I commend their professionalism,” Mr Howell said.

“The captain displayed exceptional skills in landing the aircraft so smoothly in bad weather and strong winds, so much so that the passengers did not notice anything different.”

Mr Howell said he was aware of only one similar incident.

“This is an extremely rare event and the only other recorded similar event was in 1991 when US carrier Comair’s aircraft also landed safely after a separation of its propeller,” he said.

It is unclear when the five grounded aircraft will be reintroduced with Mr Howell saying the ATSB and equipment manufacturers would be consulted as part of the decision.

Rex has been in regular contact with SAAB and engine maker, General Electric since the incident on Friday.

GE has also updated the American National Transportation Safety Board.

The propeller has not been found with Rex reporting the “assembly was seen to rotate upwards and to the right”.

“The propeller was seen rotating in a horizontal position and then moving away without making contact with the aircraft,” Rex stated.