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Essendon DFO crash: air safety teams begin work

Donna Coutts, February 21, 2017 6:00PM Herald Sun

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INVESTIGATORS have begun the task of finding out what caused yesterday’s aeroplane crash at the DFO shopping complex at Essendon Fields, in which five people died.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said it sent four investigators to the crash scene immediately after the event.

Victoria Police also began investigating as soon as firefighters brought the fire under control.

The plane, a B200 King Air plane, with five people on board, made a mayday call and the pilot tried to return the plane to the airport before it crashed into a section of the DFO shopping complex at Essendon Fields.

A policeman photographs a plane wheel on the freeway of a Beechcraft plane after it crashed into a shopping centre just after take-off from the Essendon airport in Melbourne on February 21, 2017. A light aircraft carrying five people crashed on February 21 in a "massive fireball", hitting a shopping centre near the Australian city of Melbourne and sending black smoke billowing into the air, witnesses and officials said. / AFP PHOTO / Mal Fairclough media_cameraA policeman photographs a plane wheel on the freeway after the Essendon plane crash yesterday. Picture: AFP

A mayday call is used to signal a life-threatening situation by a pilot or sailors and sometimes emergency service workers.

Police confirmed that none of the five on-board the plane have survived.

The plane took off from Essendon Airport, adjoining the DFO, shortly before 9am and was bound for King Island, in Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania.

Witnesses reported seeing an explosion and a large fire as the plane struck the building near the Spotlight and Focus on Furniture stores.

A Spotlight spokeswoman said no staff were injured in the crash. The DFO shopping centre was not open to customers at the time of the crash.

Spotlight employees comfort each other at the scene where a light plane crashed into the back of a DFO building at Essendon airport in Melbourne, Tuesday 21, 2017. (AAP Image/Joe Castro) NO ARCHIVING media_cameraIt is common to feel upset after a big event such as the plane crash yesterday. Spotlight staff comfort each other at the scene of yesterday’s aviation accident in Essendon. Picture: AAP

The surrounding roads were closed to traffic for several hours after the crash and other flights scheduled* for Essendon Airport were redirected to other airports.

“ATSB will be investigating. They will undertake a thorough, detailed investigation on what might have happened,” an ATSB spokesman said.

Essendon Airport media_cameraWorkers from Spotlight talk with police after yesterday’s plane crash at their Essendon store. Picture: Ian Currie

The ATSB is a Australia’s government national transport safety investigator. It collects information about transport incidents and accidents to improve safety and public confidence in aviation*, marine and rail transport. The information collected allows all involved to learn from any incidents and reduce the likelihood* of them happening in the future.

Air accidents in Australia are rare. On its website, the ATSB calls Australian air safety record “impressive”.

The ATSB investigators take responsibility for crash sites once it is safe for them to move into the area.

One of the tasks for ATSB staff is to analyse the information recorded on the “black box” that aircraft carry.

“The ATSB team consists of four investigators (one from Brisbane, three from ATSB headquarters in Canberra) to work on-site with specialties in: Aircraft mechanical engineering,

Operations, and Engineering,’’ the ATSB said in a statement.

It said the on-site* investigation will involve examining the site and wreckage, gathering recorded data including radio and radar, and interviewing witnesses.


scheduled: planned

aviation: air travel

marine: water-based

likelihood: how likely it is

on-site: where it happened



Activity 1: Air Disaster

After reading the Kids News article on the plane crash at Essendon Fields yesterday, outline the process being undertaken to investigate the crash.

Why is it so important that a thorough investigation takes place after an air accident such as this?

Extension: Explain the role of the ATSB in Australia.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this task.

Curriculum links: English

Activity 2: Safety Checks

The ATSB website states that Australia has an ‘impressive’ air-safety record.

Lots of people get nervous when flying for various reasons.

Fill out the table below with a list of fears you or others may have when flying in one column. In the next column, write or research some of the safety checks carried out by airlines to ensure air safety.

Give one column the title FEARS and one column the title SAFETY CHECKS

Extension: Research one of the safety checks you’ve listed above in more depth & detail.

Time: Allow 45 minutes to complete this task.

Curriculum links: English, Health and Physical education




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