Australian air force grounds all PC-9 planes after crash

12:36, May 19, 2011      

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The Australian Defense Force's entire fleet of PC-9 aircraft has been grounded since Thursday, following a crash at East Sale Air Force Base in Victoria.

Two pilots, a qualified flying instructor and a trainee instructor, ejected from their plane moments before it went down one kilometer short of the runway on late Wednesday.

The Defense Department suspected engine failure is to be blamed and has grounded all 60 PC-9 planes during investigation.

According to Australian Aviation Magazine Deputy Editor Andrew McLaughlin, the PC-9 is a single-engine training aircraft, and they have been in service for more than 20 years.

It is the third incident and second grounding involving the turbo-prop trainers this year.

In February, the engine in a training plane caught fire at Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Pearce, just north of Perth.

Last month, two landing gear doors fell off one of the planes near Heyfield in Eastern Victoria.

Retired Air Vice Marshal and RAAF Association president Roxley McLennan said the groundings do not necessarily mean there are serious safety concerns with the PC-9s.

"Safety is always paramount," he told ABC News on Thursday.

"The pause, if you like, in operations is generally a result of wanting to be absolutely sure that the problem is understood and risks associated with it are probably understood and that people are protected."

The Air Force said the PC-9s will not fly again until it can guarantee the safety.

Source: Xinhua
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