July 7th, 2009 at 9:11 am by David Farrar

As someone who has flown to and from around eight times in the last year, I was unnerved to read this Dom Post article:

A commuter airliner was forced to turn back after a propeller blade spun off the engine, sending aluminium shards into the cabin.

The three-engine Britten-Norman Trilander, with 11 passengers and pilot Sean Deeney, had just taken off from Claris Airport on Great Barrier Island on Sunday afternoon, bound for Auckland.

The blade struck the fuselage, then fell out of the fuselage and to the ground.

Regardless of how many propellers a plane has, I don’t like planes that lose any of them.

Mr Deeney shut the engine down and returned to Claris immediately. He told Mr Maguire it was a “normal approach and landing” on two of the three engines and the plane taxied back to the terminal.

Mr Maguire said the passengers had been concerned. “Any time you are in flight and something goes wrong there is reason to be concerned,” he said.

“The passengers were a little bit alarmed but were grateful to the pilot. He did an exceptional job getting the plane on to the ground. Everybody shook his hand and told him what an exceptional job he did.”

I’ve always flown Great Barrier Airlines and the pilots are good. However I will be very interested in the outcome of the official TIAC investigation.

8 Responses to “Unnerving”

  1. Glutaemus Maximus (2,207 comments) says:

    About time that all Aircraft for Hire or Reward have a minimum of two engines in NZ.

    Having flown into Milford, and out again on a single engined frame. I can assure any viewers that it took me a lot of deep breaths to

    get back on the craft after the Sounds Cruise.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. kaya (1,360 comments) says:

    I’ve been flying in and out of Barrier for 15 years on a fairly frequent basis and will also be keen to hear the outcome of any inquiry. I must admit to preferring prop engines (especially multi engine) as the technology is more visible and easier to understand! (I have also flown long haul to Europe many times and still am amazed after 10 hours in the air flying at 1000kmh as to where they put all the bloody fuel?? lol)
    Re the propeller thing, I must admit when I have been seated by the wing on the trislander that thought of a prop spinning off and ripping the plane in half has flashed though my mind, rarely thankfully.
    On another aviation note, is it just me or does it seem that there have been an awful lot of incidents involving Airbus aircraft in the last few years? Almost all involving issues with loss of control due to sensors and/or computer problems? I don’t mind flying too much but my next flight further than Barrier will not be on an Airbus.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. Brian Smaller (4,332 comments) says:

    I remember seeing a photo of a B17 in WWII that had the prop come off and slice it’s way halfway through the fuselage. They were bloody big props as well.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. Phil (130 comments) says:


    Unless i’ve missed a big story, there’s been two fatal accidents with Airbus flights in recent weeks. Given the massive number of aircraft in the air at any given moment, I’m still confident these can be put down to simple random statistical probability. I highly doubt there is anything fundamentally wrong with Airbus design.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. Ratbiter (1,265 comments) says:

    Commercial aircraft are maintained to far higher standards than any road vehicles, and commercial pilots are trained to far higher standards than drivers of any road vehicles.

    Regardless of how many engines it has, the aeroplane you are riding in is a far, far safer place to be than the taxi that is waiting for you at the airport. Air accidents just make better news copy because of the public shock/fear factor…

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. Adolf Fiinkensein (3,638 comments) says:

    David, when are you going to introduce us all to the young lady from Great Barrier?

    [DPF: No not like that. I just love going there. Hope to get a group of six to eight and go over in summer again]

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. LeftPilot (64 comments) says:

    Well said Ratbiter.

    Glut, your proposition in reality could potentially lower the overall safety record. The Trislander’s 3 engines are reciprocating pistons. These are far less reliable than say the PT6 turbine engine in the Cessna Grand Caravan which has a 3600 TBO (time before overhaul) which can be extended with approval from the manufacturer.

    When it comes to piston twin’s after an engine failure sometimes the second engine is only there to transport you to the accident site!

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  8. kaya (1,360 comments) says:


    I understand what you say but I wasn’t only referring to fatal accidents. There have been quite a number of incidents with Airbus aircraft involving sudden loss of altitude and other erratic behaviour not attributed to turbulence.


    Pilots are split on the use of fly by wire computer systems. Boeing aircraft also use FBW but apparently it is much easier for Boeing pilots to override the computer. Also did you know that Air France has replaced the speed sensors on all its A330 and A340 aircraft?
    Like Ratbiter says, flying is still one of the safest forms of transport, so I won’t stop flying, just use an airline flying Boeing if I have a choice. I might be wrong but it’s the perception I have re Airbus.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote