Virgin flight seconds from crash after engine ‘flamed out’

A Virgin Australia plane was seconds away from crashing near Canberra Airport after both of its engines cut out mid-flight last Thursday.

Flight VA660 was en route from Sydney to Canberra on 13 December when the plane's right engine "flamed out" at 11,000 feet, causing the engine to completely stop working for five seconds.

After descending a further 1000 feet, the aircraft's left engine also "flamed out" before restarting moments later.

The crew were placed on standby to manually restart the engines from the cockpit for the rest of the descent into Canberra Airport.

No one was injured in the ordeal.

Virgin Australia airlines regional ATR-72 boards at Sydney airport.
Virgin Australia airlines regional ATR-72 boards at Sydney airport.

The 68-passenger plane was grounded for three days, but has made 11 more flights since last Thursday's close-call.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has classified the event as a "serious incident" and has commenced an investigation.

The ATSB investigation is not expected to be finished until the third quarter of 2019. The Virgin Australia plane will continue to carry passengers around the state.

An ATSB spokeswoman said that the situation could have been catastrophic.

"If the engines flame out and don't restart, then the plane will go down," she said.

Virgin Australia said in a statement that the engine failure caused "no customer impact."

"Safety is always our number one priority and we are assisting the ATSB with their investigation," they said.

 

The flight-path of Flight VA660 took from Sydney to Canberra on the day its engines cut out (Source: FlightRadar)
The flight-path of Flight VA660 took from Sydney to Canberra on the day its engines cut out (Source: FlightRadar)

 

The ATSB spokeswoman said that "flame outs" can be caused in a number of ways.

"It could be water in the engine, or it could be a fuel blockage," she said.

Flight VA600 was flying through heavy rain when the "flame outs" occurred.

The ATSB spokeswoman also said that "flame outs" such as this are extremely rare.

"Flame outs are not very common at all," she said.

"I can't remember the last time there was one."

The aircraft involved, an ATR-72, was delivered new to Virgin Australia in September 2012.

"Flame outs" have been the cause of numerous fatal aircraft crashes internationally.



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