A PLANE travelling from regional NSW to Sydney has been forced to make an emergency landing after a propeller fell off the aircraft and plunged to the ground over the city's suburbs.
The Regional Express (Rex) Saab 340 was travelling from Albury when the propeller detached from the fuselage mid-flight.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is investigating the incident and has advised anyone who finds aircraft debris to not handle it but report it to authorities.
Flight ZL768, which was approaching Kingsford Smith Airport from the north according to data from website Flightaware, landed safely at Sydney about midday. There are no reports of any injuries among the 16 passengers and three crew.
In the pan-pan call, the crew said the propeller assembly had "dislodged", Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokesman Peter Gibson told AAP, while photographs of the plane on the ground showed the right propeller missing altogether. Mr Gibson said during his 20 years in the aviation industry he'd never heard of a propeller falling off a plane.
"I've never come across it ... it's very unusual," he said.
A "pan-pan" is one step away from a full mayday distress call.
The propeller detached about 19kms from Sydney airport which could mean any debris is located somewhere close to Gordon and Pymble in Sydney's north shore or the Ku-ring-gai Chase national park. However, there are some reports it could have occurred earlier in the flight, placing debris over the city's south west.
The ATSB is deploying a team of three investigators with expertise in materials failure engineering, recorded flight data analysis, and human factors.
In a statement, the ATSB said, "Over the next few days, investigators will examine the aircraft, interview the flight and cabin crew, collect maintenance records and recorded flight data.
"The ATSB urges anyone who finds a piece of suspected aircraft debris NOT to handle it."
Rather, people should call local police or the ATSB on 1800 020 616.
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