Jagged rocks caused plane damage: AIC

The exposure of large jagged rocks at the Bulolo Airstrip, Morobe Province, were reasonable for the damage suffered by an Air Niugini craft.

The damaged left engine casing of the Dash 8 aircraft forced it to make an emergency landing on August 4, 2017.

The Accident Investigation Commission (AIC), in its final report, states that the licensee to the Bulolo Airstrip had neglected its primary responsibility of properly maintaining the airstrip, resulting in the bursting of a tyre which in turn affected the engine casing.

The report states that on August 4, 2017, the Link PNG operated aircraft completed a scheduled flight from Bulolo to Port Moresby.

After arriving at Jackson’s International Airport in the morning, the aircraft subsequently departed Port Moresby for Tari, Hela Province.

At about 16 minutes into the flight, both pilots heard a loud bang and noticed the left main landing gear door OPEN Advisory light was illuminated, which was then confirmed by crew.

They elected to return to Port Moresby for an inspection, where engineers found the left main landing gear number-two tyre was deflated and damaged. And when the tyre blew out in the wheel well, it caused substantial damage to the main structure on the inside of the nacelle.

The AIC investigation found that this was a result of a hard impact from a sharp object during the landing at Bulolo on August 3, 2017. Although the aircraft returned to Jackson’s safely, the damage was not found during post-and pre-flight inspections.

The investigation determined that the significantly damaged and weakened casing of the tyre, and the differential of the atmospheric pressure compared with the pressure within the tyre, caused the tyre to blow out, resulting in substantial damage to the left nacelle.

The investigation further determined that the licensee of the Bulolo Airstrip had neglected its primary responsibility of properly maintaining the airstrip. Due to weather erosion over time, and the lack of maintenance, large jagged rocks had become exposed on the surface of the Bulolo strip.

On October 25, 2017, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of PNG informed the AIC that the Bulolo Aerodrome Operating Certificate (ADOC) had lapsed, and Bulolo Aerodrome was not certificated.

Although moves were underway for its certification, the Bulolo ADOC had not been renewed at the time of finalising this investigation report on January 4, 2018.

Cedric Patjole