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Early investigations show no fire in emergency Rex landing at Merimbula

Ian Campbell 30 August 2019

Rex ZL139 safely on the ground. Photo: Fire and Rescue Merimbula.

The Civil Aviation Saftey Authority (CASA) says closer inspections of a Regional Express plane involved in a single-engine emergency landing last night (August 29) at Merimbula Airport have found no evidence of fire.

“Obviously there was a mechanical fault and engineers will now determine what that was,” Peter Gibson from CASA says.

“This doesn’t happen often but it does happen to airlines big and small, that’s why there are redundancies in place.”

Mr Gibson says reports of a fire in the starboard engine are probably explained by passengers seeing sparks but, “observations this morning don’t show the presence of fire.”

“The pilots obviously did the right thing.”

Vicki Hodges who was on board posted to Facebook, “I have just had the most terrifying experience of my life flying home from Sydney on REX ZL139.”

“Engine blew up just out of Moruya so flew 40 minutes on 1 engine. The wonderful pilots got us home safely.”

Emergency services were called to Merimbula Airport just before 8:30 pm last night (August 29).

“None of the passengers or crew were injured, a large contingency of emergency services attended the call, Fire and Rescue NSW – three appliances, Rural Fire Service – three appliances, NSW Police and NSW Ambulance service where at Merimbula Airport,” a spokesperson for Fire and Rescue NSW Eden says.

Firefighters went on to check the faulty engine with a thermal imaging camera and declared the aircraft safe before leaving.

FlightRadar 24 shows the aircraft did multiple circuits above the ocean off Tathra before landing.

“Pilots would have been going through their checklist at that time,” explains Mr Gibson, rather than dumping fuel.

“A single-engine landing takes a bit of time and you don’t want to rush it, but the aircraft is designed for it.”

Photo: FlightRadar24 App.

Mr Gibson says its unfair to link recent safety concerns relating to Rex to this incident.

“People shouldn’t jump to conclusions, it is what it is, engineers will get to the bottom of it and we’ll take it from there.”

In a statement, Regional Express says ZL139 operating from Sydney to Merimbula, “experienced a cockpit indication associated with the aircraft’s right engine en route to Merimbula.”

“In accordance with company standard operating procedures, the pilots carried out the prescribed procedures and landed safely and without further incident at Merimbula airport at 8:42 pm.

“The safety regulator has been notified and given all available information.”

Rex is Australia’s largest independent regional airline and operates a fleet of more than 50 Saab 340 aircraft on around 1,500 weekly flights to 60 destinations throughout all states in Australia.

As owners of the airport, Bega Valley Shire Council has thanked the Merimbula Airport Management Contractors, the local emergency services and Rex staff and crew for their swift and professional response to last night’s emergency.

“Upon receiving notification of the situation with Rex Flight ZL139, the Airport Emergency Plan (AEP) was immediately enacted and the plane safely landed,” a spokesperson says.

“A debrief and review on the incident and the AEP will also be conducted. All learnings will further inform Merimbula Airport procedures, policies and plans moving forward.”

Rex ZL139 safely on the ground. Photo: Fire and Rescue Eden.

Rex ZL139 safely on the ground. Photo: Fire and Rescue Eden.

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