Aviation experts are baffled as to what caused Tuesday’s fatal plane crash in Melbourne, as investigators continue to sift through the wreckage searching for clues.
Four American tourists on a golfing trip and the Australian pilot Max Quartermain died when their aircraft VH-ZCR, crashed shortly after take-off.
The plane, a Beechcraft King Air B200, was headed for King Island off Tasmania’s north coast, crashed into the roof of the nearby Essendon Direct Factory Outlet (DFO) shopping centre and exploded into flames.
The black box flight recorder from the plane is expected to arrive at Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) headquarters on Thursday.
The Australian Transit Safety Bureau (ATSB) raised conjecture Wednesday when it discovered several “interesting facets” to the accident, as specialists questioned what caused the “high performance” twin-engine aircraft to fail.
“That’s the big question, there’s no reason whatsoever why that plane could not have kept going,” aviation journalist Geoffrey Thomas told The New Daily.
“There should be no issue whatsoever, even if it’s fully loaded (full with passengers, fuel or cargo) with maintaining flight on one engine.”
According to the ABC, the plane had flown just five hours since its last maintenance check in January.
The flight recording website Flightradar24 lists no recorded flights for this aircraft since 4th February.
While investigations are still ongoing, there were several potential causes for an aircraft to lose power and go down.
Going through the checklist for this particular situation, he said a pilot must ‘feather’ the engine/propeller, retract the undercarriage, and put the nose down for a more levelled flight.
It appears for some reason none of this happened, it appears that either the pilot was not able to do this or he was prevented from running the engine failure check list.
The pilot should have been able to continue flying using one engine.
Industry experts believe the functionality of the plane’s auto-feathering feature, and how the engine was feathered, are the most crucial aspects of the crash.
It is possible the engine that failed did not auto-feather, or could not be feathered by the pilot. The result of not feathering correctly, it could have resulted in the windmilling propeller producing significant additional drag and have deleterious affect on aircraft controllability.
It’s not yet known if auto-feather was disabled, or could not be feathered by the pilot.
The sequence of events of the mayday call were also brought into question by Mr Thomas.
There are the three things the pilot must do when a problem arises; aviate – fly the plane, navigate – fly it in the right direction, and then communicate the problem.
It appears that the pilot communicated the problem almost instantaneously.”
It is unknown what communication was made during the mayday call.
‘Several factors leap out at you’: ATSB
The Australian Transit Safety Bureau’s chief commissioner Greg Hood said the agency had already found several clues to the crash.
“With any accident, particularly aviation accidents, we find that initially there are several factors that leap out at you,” Mr Hood told reporters on Wednesday.
“So whilst in the initial walk-through yesterday, the initial examination of records, we have discovered some interesting facets, we really need to gather all the evidence and conduct the analysis before we can say what caused the accident.
“I realise there is a lot of speculation.”
Mr Hood would not give any further detail but confirmed the plane is able to take off safely with one engine.
The ATSB said it would release a preliminary report about the crash in 27 days.