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A different Air Corps plane.
Defence Forces

Air Corps plane on flight from Dublin made emergency landing after losing engine power

The plane had been on a training flight.

AN AIR CORPS airplane had to make an emergency landing after the crew reported hearing a loud bang with smoke spotted streaming from the aircraft’s engine.

A safety investigation report said the two-person crew experienced “significant vibrations” in the cockpit along with a “loud grinding metallic noise”.

The aircrew of the Pilatus airplane then lost all engine power with an emergency oxygen system activated to ensure they were not overcome with smoke or fumes.

The plane had been on a training flight and was about fourteen miles from Air Corps headquarters in Baldonnel in Dublin when it ran into trouble.

The investigation report said: “Shortly after levelling off, the crew heard a loud bang and experienced significant vibrations and yaw with fluctuating torque.”

The instructor took control of the plane and used what power was still available from the engine to level off the aircraft.

As noise and vibrations “intensified”, black smoke could be seen coming from the engine with an oil slick covering the canopy of the plane.

“The aircrew experienced a loss of remaining engine power and completed the engine fire or mechanical failure in the air checklist and the engine was secured,” said the report.

The instructor then performed “a number of left-hand descending turns” before bringing the plane in to land safely at Baldonnel.

An inspection revealed damage from debris escaping through the engine, with obvious damage to engine blades and a layer of oil on the exterior of the aircraft.

The investigation report said the Pilatus PC-9M plane had flown more than 3,000 hours at the time of the accident but was compliant in all ways and airworthy.

It found that a blade within the engine had fractured, which had caused damage as it travelled through the engine.

The report on the incident in February 2021 also said it was fortunate the accident had happened so close to Baldonnel meaning the plane could glide back to land safely.

It praised the instructor and student saying: “The crew actions were the deciding factor in ensuring the available altitude and glide range was utilised to ensure a safe outcome for the crew.”

By coincidence, the senior crew member had only the previous day completed a flight instructors test, which had included a simulated engine failure and practice forced landing.

The report also said ejection seats were armed for the flight during a pre-take-off checklist.

They would have been available for use if required, but the swift action of the two-person crew had meant they were not needed.

Concerns were raised however, about how the emergency was handled on the ground with communication issues between vehicle radios.

The report said: “Further consideration should be given to the possibility of greater medical cover had the emergency developed into a larger aircraft accident.”

It said the “available medical cover” on the ground would have been “inadequate” to treat two injured crew and get them to hospital.

It recommended a review of the emergency plan for Casement Aerodrome and the level of medical response which would be required in the event of an accident.

A second report into a towing incident at Baldonnel, which saw two aircraft damaged, said there had been “inadequate clearance” during the operation.

One member of the Air Corps – who had been serving overseas for a year – said during an interview that technicians were “under a lot more pressure” than they had been before he left.

Among the recommendations from the October 2021 incident were a risk assessment for two hangars before any new aircraft came into service, an up-to-date parking plan and procedures, as well as appropriate ground markings for parking and maintenance of planes.

Asked about the reports, the Defence Forces said they had no additional comment to make.

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