REX SF34 at Melbourne on Apr 5th 2022, flames and smoke during engine start prompt evacuation

Last Update: November 15, 2022 / 16:35:06 GMT/Zulu time

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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Apr 5, 2022


Flight number

Aircraft Registration

Aircraft Type
SAAB 340

ICAO Type Designator

A REX Regional Express Saab 340B, registration VH-ZRK performing flight ZL-3937 from Melbourne,VI to King Island,TA (Australia) with 23 passengers and 3 crew, was preparing for departure. The right hand engine had been started and the crew was about to start the left hand engine, when ground staff disconnected the ground power unit interrupting the left engine start sequence. The crew began motoring the left hand engine to remove any residual fuel, however, as soon as the propeller began to rotate the ground marshaller signalled to stop the engine start due to seeing flames and smoke from the left hand engine. The captain stopped the engine start, the crew noticed the ITT was still rising prompting the captain to again perform motoring of the engine. The marshaller continued to signal to the crew to stop the engine start. Despite the absence of any fire or abnormal indication on the engine the captain decided to work the engine fire checklist and initiated an evacuation through the right hand door. Two passengers received minor injuries in the evacuation.

On Nov 15th 2022 the ATSB released their preliminary report summarizing the sequence of events:

On 5 April 2022, a Regional Express SAAB 340B aircraft, registered VH-ZRK, was being prepared for an air transport flight from Melbourne, Victoria to King Island, Tasmania. The scheduled departure time was 1445 local time.

The crew consisted of a captain, first officer, and one flight attendant, and there were 23 passengers. Following door closure, the flight attendant commenced the passenger safety briefing using the public address (PA) system.

As was the normal procedure, a marshaller (ground staff member) was positioned at the front of the aircraft to monitor the engine start. The flight crew completed the engine start checklist and started the right engine.

Preliminary review of the closed-circuit television (CCTV), on-board recordings, and interviews with the crew indicated the following sequence of events after the right engine was started:

- A second ground staff member went to the rear right side of the aircraft in preparation to disconnect the ground power unit (GPU).
- The captain began to start the left engine.
- During the left engine start process, the second ground staff member disconnected the GPU from the aircraft (prior to receiving the signal from the flight crew to do so).
- The captain initiated the interrupted engine start procedure for the left engine, which included motoring to remove any residual fuel from inside the engine.
- As the left engine propeller began to rotate, flame and smoke were visible coming from the rear of the left engine. The initial flames were visible on the CCTV for about 3 seconds.
- The marshaller, who was still positioned at the front of the aircraft, noticed the flames and began to signal to the flight crew to stop the engine start using the appropriate hand signal. However, the marshaller could not recall the hand signal for fire3 and instead communicated to the flight crew by mouthing the words ‘smoke’ and ‘flame’ and gesturing to the left engine.
- The captain ceased motoring the left engine and the left propeller stopped.
- At about this time, the flight crew noted that the left engine interstage turbine temperature (ITT)4 was still rising and in response the captain decided to make a second attempt at motoring.
- The marshaller continued to signal to the flight crew that there was a problem, which prompted the captain to check outside their window. The captain could not see any flame or fire. (Note: only the front of the engine is visible from the flight deck).
- There was no indication in the flight deck that there was a fire in the left engine or an overtemperature of the tail pipe; that is, there was no master warning, no relevant indications on the caution and warning panel, no audible chimes and the fire handles were not illuminated.
- The captain later reported that, given the signals from the marshaller and the rising ITT, they decided to action the engine fire emergency checklist and evacuate the aircraft. Accordingly, the flight crew pulled the fire handle for the left engine.
- After the first fire extinguisher bottle had been discharged, additional flame and smoke could be seen coming from the left engine tail pipe.
- The captain cycled the seat-belt sign twice (which created 4 chimes) to notify the flight attendant to evacuate.
- About 30 seconds after the first extinguisher bottle had been discharged, the flight crew discharged the second bottle.
- The captain opened the flight deck door and commanded the flight attendant to commence an evacuation, specifying the use of the forward right (R1) exit only. The captain then attempted to make a PA to the passengers.
- After the right propeller stopped rotating, the R1 exit was opened. Shortly after, the first passenger exited the aircraft. The evacuation of all passengers and crew via the R1 door (Figure 1) took about 4 minutes.
- Two passengers received minor injuries during the evacuation.
- Subsequent examination of the aircraft and engine revealed no damage.
Aircraft Registration Data
Registration mark
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Date of Registration
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Airworthyness Category
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TCDS Ident. No.
Aircraft Model / Type
ICAO Aircraft Type
Year of Manufacture
Serial Number
Maximum Take off Mass (MTOM) [kg]
Engine Count
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Main Owner
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Main Operator
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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Apr 5, 2022


Flight number

Aircraft Registration

Aircraft Type
SAAB 340

ICAO Type Designator

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