Country
code

Queensland

Crash of a Cessna 404 Titan in Lockhart River: 5 killed

Date & Time: Mar 11, 2020 at 0920 LT
Type of aircraft:
Operator:
Registration:
VH-OZO
Survivors:
No
Schedule:
Cairns – Lockhart River
MSN:
404-0653
YOM:
1980
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
1
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
4
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
5
Circumstances:
The twin engine aircraft departed Cairns on a charter flight to Lockhart River, carrying workers for the government. While descending to Lockhart River, the pilot encountered marginal weather conditions with rain falls and strong winds. A first approach to Lockhart River was abandoned and the pilot was forced to initiate a go-around. Few minutes later, while in a second attempt to land, the aircraft crashed on the Claudie Beach located about 4 km southeast of Lockhart River. All five occupants were killed.

Crash of an Angel Aircraft Corporation Model 44 Angel in Mareeba: 2 killed

Date & Time: Dec 14, 2019 at 1115 LT
Registration:
VH-IAZ
Flight Phase:
Flight Type:
Survivors:
No
Schedule:
Mareeba - Mareeba
MSN:
004
YOM:
2008
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
1
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
1
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
2
Captain / Total flying hours:
20000
Captain / Total hours on type:
300.00
Copilot / Total flying hours:
5029
Copilot / Total hours on type:
0
Aircraft flight hours:
1803
Circumstances:
On 14 December 2019, at 1046 Eastern Standard Time, an Angel Aircraft Corporation Model 44 aircraft, registered VH-IAZ, commenced taxiing at Mareeba Airport, Queensland. On board the aircraft were two pilots. The pilot in the left seat (‘the pilot’) owned the aircraft and was undertaking a flight review, which was being conducted by the Grade 1 flight instructor in the right seat (‘the instructor’). The planned flight was to operate in the local area, as a private flight and under visual flight rules. As the aircraft taxied towards the runway intersection, the pilot broadcast on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) that VH-IAZ was taxiing for runway 28. The pilot made another broadcast when entering and backtracking the runway, then at 1058, broadcast that the aircraft had commenced the take-off roll. Witnesses who heard the aircraft during the take-off reported that it sounded like one of the engines was hesitating and misfiring. An aircraft maintainer who observed the aircraft take off, reported seeing black sooty smoke trailing from the right engine. The maintainer then watched the aircraft climb slowly and turn right towards the north. Another witness who heard the aircraft in flight soon afterwards, reported that it sounded normal for that aircraft, which had a distinctive sound because the engines’ exhaust gases pass through the propellers. Once airborne, the pilot broadcast that they were ‘making a low-level right-hand turn and then climbing up to not above 4,500 [feet] for the south-west training area.’ About 2 minutes later, the instructor broadcast that they were just to the west of the airfield in the training area at 2,500 ft and on climb to 4,000 ft, and communicated with a helicopter pilot operating in the area. After 8 minutes in the training area, the pilot broadcast that they were inbound to the aerodrome. At 1112, the aircraft’s final transmission was broadcast by the pilot, advising that they were joining the crosswind circuit leg for runway 28. Witnesses then saw the aircraft touch down on the runway and continue to take off again, consistent with a ‘touch-and-go’ manoeuvre, and heard one engine ‘splutter’ as the aircraft climbed to an estimated 100–150 ft above ground level. At about 1115, the aircraft was observed overhead a banana plantation beyond the end of the runway, banked to the right in a descending turn, before it suddenly rolled right. Witnesses observed the right wing drop to near vertical and the aircraft impacted terrain in a cornfield. Both pilots were fatally injured and the aircraft was destroyed.
Probable cause:
Contributing factors:
• The flight instructor very likely conducted a simulated engine failure after take-off in environmental conditions and a configuration in which the aircraft was unable to maintain altitude with one engine inoperative.
• Having not acted quickly to restore power to the simulated inoperative engine, the pilots did not reduce power and land ahead (in accordance with the Airplane Flight Manual procedure) before the combination of low airspeed and bank angle resulted in a loss of directional control at a height too low to recover.
• The instructor had very limited experience with the aircraft type, and with limited preparation for the flight, was likely unaware of the landing gear and flap retraction time and the extent of their influence on performance with one engine inoperative.

Other factors that increased risk:
• The pilot had not flown for 3 years prior to the accident flight, which likely resulted in a decay in skills at managing tasks such as an engine failure after take-off and in decision-making ability. The absence of flying practice before the flight review probably affected the pilot’s ability to manage the asymmetric low-level flight.
• The aircraft had not been flown for more than 2 years and had not been stored in accordance with the airframe and engine manufacturers’ recommendations. This very likely resulted in some of the right engine cylinders running with excessive fuel to air ratio for complete combustion and may also have reduced the expected service life of both engines’ components.
• The right-side altimeter was probably set to an incorrect barometric pressure, resulting in it over-reading the aircraft’s altitude by about 90 ft.
Final Report:

Crash of a Cessna 208 Caravan I in Whitsunday Island

Date & Time: Jan 28, 2016 at 1518 LT
Type of aircraft:
Operator:
Registration:
VH-WTY
Survivors:
Yes
Schedule:
Hamilton Island - Whitsunday Island
MSN:
208-0522
YOM:
2010
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
1
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
10
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
0
Captain / Total flying hours:
1350
Captain / Total hours on type:
230.00
Aircraft flight hours:
1510
Circumstances:
On 28 January 2016 the pilot of a Cessna Aircraft Company Caravan 208 amphibian aircraft, registered VH-WTY (WTY) was conducting a series of charter flights in the Whitsunday region of Queensland. The pilot was conducting his third flight of the day when the aircraft departed Hamilton Island Airport at about 1415 Eastern Standard Time with 10 passengers on board. The tour included a scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef for about 50 minutes before heading to Chance Bay, on the south-east tip of Whitsunday Island, about 11 km north east of Hamilton Island Airport. Following a water landing at Chance Bay, the group was to spend 90 minutes at the beach before a short flight back to Hamilton Island. The tour was originally planned to include a landing at Whitehaven Beach, however wind conditions at the time required the water landing be altered to Chance Bay. Radar surveillance data showed WTY approach Whitsunday Island from the north and conduct an orbit about 2 km north of Whitehaven Beach at about 1510, before heading toward Whitehaven Beach. WTY flew over the southern end of Whitehaven Beach and the strip of land that separates it from Chance Bay. At about 1515, after crossing Chance Bay beach in a southerly direction, WTY descended below radar surveillance for the remainder of the flight. The pilot advised that he flew WTY over the western end of Chance Bay’s main beach in order to conduct a visual pre-landing check of the bay. The pilot noted the positions of various vessels moored in the bay to determine the best taxi path to the beach. During this fly-over, the pilot also noted the sea state and observed evidence of wind gusts on the water surface. The pilot then initiated a right downwind turn toward the landing area. The approach was from the south with the intent to land in the most suitable location within the designated landing area and then taxi to the beach. The pilot reported setting up for landing at about 50 ft above the water and then delayed the landing in order to fly through an observed wind gust. Passenger video footage indicated that, during the subsequent landing, WTY bounced three times on the surface of the water. After the second bounce, with WTY getting closer to the beach and terrain, the pilot increased engine power and initiated a go-around. The third bounce, which occurred almost immediately after the second, was the most pronounced and resulted in the aircraft rebounding about 30 to 50 ft above the water. While increasing power, the pilot perceived that the torque was indicating red, suggesting an over-torque for the selected propeller configuration. Noticing that the climb performance was less than expected with the flaps at 30˚, the pilot stopped increasing power and reduced the flap to 20˚. As the aircraft climbed straight ahead towards a saddle, climb performance was still below the pilot’s expectations and he assessed that WTY would not clear the terrain. In response, the pilot turned right to avoid the surrounding rising terrain. WTY clipped trees during this turn, before colliding with terrain and coming to rest in dense scrub about 150 m from the eastern end of the main beach, near the top of the ridge. The pilot promptly advised the passengers to exit and move away from the aircraft. Some of the 11 people on board suffered minor injuries but all were able to quickly leave the aircraft. There was no post-impact fire. The aircraft’s fixed emergency beacon self-activated during the collision with terrain and was detected by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), resulting in a search and rescue response being initiated by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) Australia. The pilot reported also activating his personal locator beacon, however this was not detected by AMSA. In addition, the pilot used the company satellite phone to advise the operator of the occurrence and current status of all on board. At about the same time, several witnesses who were located in Chance Bay made their way to the aircraft before assisting everyone down to the beach. A tourist boat was utilized to transfer the pilot and passengers to Hamilton Island, arriving at about 1600. From there, one passenger was transferred by helicopter to Mackay for further treatment.
Probable cause:
From the evidence available, the following findings are made with respect to the collision with terrain involving amphibian Cessna Aircraft Company C208 Caravan aircraft, registered VH-WTY that occurred at Chance Bay, 11 km north-east of Hamilton Island airport, Queensland, on 28 January 2016. These findings should not be read as apportioning blame or liability to any particular organisation or individual.
Contributing factors:
- The aircraft's initial touches with water were past the nominated decision point and beyond the northern boundary of the ALA, which reduced the safety margins available for a successful water landing or go-around.
- The pilot initiated a go-around without using all available power and the optimal speed, turned towards higher terrain and placed the aircraft in a down-wind situation, which ultimately resulted in the collision with terrain.
Other findings:
- The aircraft was equipped with lap-sash seatbelts, which have been demonstrated to reduce injury, and the use of emergency beacons and satellite phone facilitated a timely response to the accident.
Final Report:

Crash of a Rockwell 500U Shrike Commander in Badu Island

Date & Time: Mar 8, 2015 at 1230 LT
Operator:
Registration:
VH-WZV
Flight Phase:
Survivors:
Yes
Schedule:
Badu Island - Horn Island
MSN:
500-1656-11
YOM:
1966
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
1
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
5
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
0
Circumstances:
On 8 March 2015, the pilot of an Aero Commander 500 aircraft, registered VH-WZV, prepared to conduct a charter flight from Badu Island to Horn Island, Queensland, with five passengers. The aircraft had been refuelled earlier that day at Horn Island, where the pilot conducted fuel drains with no contaminants found. He had operated the aircraft for about 2 hours prior to landing at Badu Island with no abnormal performance or indications. At about 1330 Eastern Standard Time (EST), the pilot started the engines and conducted the standard checks with all indications normal, obtained the relevant clearances from air traffic control, and taxied for a departure from runway 30. As the pilot lined the aircraft up on the runway centreline at the threshold, he performed a pre-take-off safety self-brief and conducted the pre-takeoff checks. He then applied full power, released the brakes and commenced the take-off run. All engine indications were normal during the taxi and commencement of the take-off run. When the airspeed had increased to about 80 kt, the pilot commenced rotation and the nose and main landing gear lifted off the runway. Just as the main landing gear lifted off, the pilot detected a significant loss of power from the left engine. The aircraft yawed to the left, which the pilot counteracted with right rudder. He heard the left engine noise decrease noticeably and the aircraft dropped back onto the runway. The pilot immediately rejected the take-off; reduced the power to idle, and used rudder and brakes to maintain the runway centreline. The pilot initially assessed that there was sufficient runway remaining to stop on but, due to the wet runway surface, the aircraft did not decelerate as quickly as expected and he anticipated that the aircraft would overrun the runway. As there was a steep slope and trees beyond the end of the runway, he steered the aircraft to the right towards more open and level ground. The aircraft departed the runway to the right, collided with a fence and a bush resulting in substantial damage. The pilot and passengers were not injured.
Final Report:

Crash of a De Havilland DH.84 Dragon near Borumba Dam: 6 killed

Date & Time: Oct 1, 2012 at 1413 LT
Type of aircraft:
Operator:
Registration:
VH-UXG
Flight Phase:
Flight Type:
Survivors:
No
Schedule:
Monto - Caboolture
MSN:
6077
YOM:
1934
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
1
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
5
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
6
Captain / Total flying hours:
1134
Captain / Total hours on type:
662.00
Circumstances:
At about 1107 Eastern Standard Time on 01OCT2012, a de Havilland Aircraft Pty Ltd DH-84 Dragon, registered VH-UXG (UXG), took off from Monto on a private flight to Caboolture, Queensland under the visual flight rules (VFR). On board the aircraft were the pilot/owner and five passengers. The weather conditions on departure were reported to include a light south-easterly wind with a high overcast and good visibility. Sometime after about 1230, the aircraft was seen near Tansey, about 150 km north-west of Caboolture on the direct track from Monto to Caboolture. The aircraft was reported flying in a south-easterly direction at the time, at an estimated height of 3,000 ft and in fine but overcast conditions. At 1315, the pilot contacted Brisbane Radar air traffic control (ATC) and advised that the aircraft’s position was about 37 NM (69 km) north of Caboolture and requested navigation assistance. At 1318, the pilot advised ATC that the aircraft was in ‘full cloud’. For most of the remainder of the flight, the pilot and ATC exchanged communications, at times relayed through a commercial flight and a rescue flight in the area due to the limited ATC radio coverage in the area at low altitude. At about 1320, a friend of one of the aircraft’s passengers received a telephone call from the passenger to say that she was in an aircraft and that they were ‘lost in a cloud’ and kept losing altitude. Witnesses in the Borumba Dam, Imbil and Kandanga areas 70 to 80 km north-north-west of Caboolture later reported that they heard and briefly saw the aircraft flying in and out of low cloud between about 1315 and 1415. At 1348, the pilot advised ATC that the aircraft had about an hour’s endurance remaining. The pilot’s last recorded transmission was at 1404. A search for the aircraft was coordinated by Australian Search and Rescue (AusSAR). The aircraft wreckage was located on 3 October 2012, about 87 km north-west of Caboolture on the northern side of a steep, densely wooded ridge about 500 m above mean sea level. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) later determined that the aircraft probably impacted terrain at about 1421 on 01OCT2012. Preliminary analysis indicated that the aircraft collided with trees and terrain at a moderate to high speed, with a left angle of bank. The aircraft’s direction of travel at impact was toward the south-south-west.
Probable cause:
From the evidence available, the following findings are made with respect to the visual flight rules into instrument meteorological conditions accident involving de Havilland Aircraft Pty Ltd DH-84 Dragon, registered VH-UXG, that occurred 36 km south-west of Gympie, Queensland, on 1 October 2012. These findings should not be read as apportioning blame or liability to any particular organisation or individual. Safety issues, or system problems, are highlighted in bold to emphasize their importance. A safety issue is an event or condition that increases safety risk and (a) can reasonably be regarded as having the potential to adversely affect the safety of future operations, and (b) is a characteristic of an organisation or a system, rather than a characteristic of a specific individual, or characteristic of an operating environment at a specific point in time.
Contributing factors:
- The pilot unintentionally entered instrument meteorological conditions and was unable to reattain and maintain visual conditions.
- It is likely that the pilot became spatially disoriented and lost control due to a combination of factors such as the absence of a visible horizon, cumulative workload, stress and/or distraction.
Other factors that increased risk:
- Though it probably did not have a significant bearing on the event, the aircraft was almost certainly above its maximum take-off weight (MTOW) on take-off, and around the MTOW at the time of the accident.
- Though airborne search and rescue service providers were regularly tasked to provide assistance to pilots in distress, there was limited specific guidance on the conduct of such assistance. Other findings:
- The aircraft wreckage was not located for 2 days as the search was hindered by difficult local weather conditions and terrain, and the cessation of the aircraft’s emergency beacon due to impact damage.
Final Report:

Crash of a Rockwell Shrike Commander 500S off Horn Island: 1 killed

Date & Time: Feb 24, 2011 at 0800 LT
Operator:
Registration:
VH-WZU
Flight Type:
Survivors:
No
Schedule:
Cairns - Horn Island
MSN:
3060
YOM:
1970
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
1
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
0
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
1
Captain / Total flying hours:
4154
Captain / Total hours on type:
209.00
Aircraft flight hours:
17545
Circumstances:
At 0445 Eastern Standard Time on 24 February 2011, the pilot of an Aero Commander 500S, registered VH-WZU, commenced a freight charter flight from Cairns to Horn Island, Queensland under the instrument flight rules. The aircraft arrived in the Horn Island area at about 0720 and the pilot advised air traffic control that he intended holding east of the island due to low cloud and rain. At about 0750 he advised pilots in the area that he was north of Horn Island and was intending to commence a visual approach. When the aircraft did not arrive a search was commenced but the pilot and aircraft were not found. On about 10 October 2011, the wreckage was located on the seabed about 26 km north-north-west of Horn Island.
Probable cause:
The ATSB found that the aircraft had not broken up in flight and that it impacted the water at a relatively low speed and a near wings-level attitude, consistent with it being under control at impact. It is likely that the pilot encountered rain and reduced visibility when manoeuvring to commence a visual approach. However, there was insufficient evidence available to determine why the aircraft impacted the water.
Several aspects of the flight increased risk. The pilot had less than 4 hours sleep during the night before the flight and the operator did not have any procedures or guidance in place to minimize the fatigue risk associated with early starts. In addition, the pilot, who was also the operator’s chief pilot, had either not met the recency requirements or did not have an endorsement to conduct the types of instrument approaches available at Horn Island and several other locations frequently used by the operator.
Final Report:

Crash of a Fletcher FU-24A-954 in Wynella Station: 1 killed

Date & Time: Dec 20, 2010 at 1700 LT
Type of aircraft:
Registration:
VH-FNM
Survivors:
No
Schedule:
Wynella Station - Wynella Station
MSN:
263
YOM:
1979
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
1
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
0
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
1
Captain / Total flying hours:
5815
Circumstances:
On 20 December 2010, the owner/pilot of a Pacific Aerospace Corporation FU-24-954 Fletcher aircraft, registered VH-FNM, was conducting aerial spreading of urea fertilizer at Wynella Station; a property 40 km south-south-west of Dirranbandi, Queensland. At about 1650 Eastern Standard Time, the pilot was returning to the landing strip after the completion of an application run. The aircraft impacted the terrain, and the pilot was fatally injured.
Probable cause:
Examination of the accident site indicated that the aircraft’s engine was delivering power at the time of impact. Wreckage examination did not reveal evidence of any defect or mechanical failure that would have contributed to the event. Although the post-mortem report on the pilot noted that he had significant coronary atherosclerosis, there was insufficient information available to determine whether pilot incapacitation was involved in the accident. The investigation did not identify any organisational or systemic issues that might adversely affect the future safety of aviation
operations.
Final Report:

Crash of a Piper PA-31-310 Navajo Chieftain in Mount Isa

Date & Time: Jul 17, 2008 at 0915 LT
Type of aircraft:
Operator:
Registration:
VH-IHR
Flight Type:
Survivors:
Yes
Schedule:
Century Mine - Mount Isa
MSN:
31-8012077
YOM:
1980
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
1
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
0
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
0
Captain / Total flying hours:
469
Captain / Total hours on type:
30.00
Circumstances:
On 17 July 2008, at approximately 0915 Eastern Standard Time1, the pilot of a Piper Navajo PA-31 aircraft, registered VH-IHR, was en route from Century Mine, Qld to Mt Isa, Qld when the left engine lost power. The pilot transmitted an urgency broadcast (PAN) to air traffic control (ATC). A short time later, the right engine also lost power. The pilot then transmitted a distress signal (MAYDAY) to ATC stating his intention to carry out an off-field emergency landing. The aircraft impacted terrain 22 km north of Mt Isa, about 4 km from the Barkly Highway, in relatively flat, sparsely wooded bushland (Figure 1). The pilot, who was the sole occupant, sustained serious injuries.
Probable cause:
From the evidence available, the following findings are made with respect to the fuel starvation event and should not be read as apportioning blame or liability to any particular organisation or individual.
- The pilot did not monitor outboard fuel tank quantity during the flight.
- The pilot incorrectly diagnosed the engine power losses.
- The aircraft was not in the correct configuration for the forced landing.
Final Report:

Crash of a PAC Cresco 08-600 near Tully: 1 killed

Date & Time: Aug 16, 2007 at 1513 LT
Type of aircraft:
Registration:
VH-XMN
Flight Phase:
Flight Type:
Survivors:
No
Site:
Schedule:
Ingham - Tully
MSN:
036
YOM:
2002
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
1
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
0
Pax fatalities:
Total fatalities:
1
Captain / Total flying hours:
397
Captain / Total hours on type:
138.00
Circumstances:
The pilot was ferrying the aircraft under the visual flight rules (VFR) from the operator’s base at Tully, Qld to Ingham and return. The flights, conducted in the private category without passengers, were to allow aircraft maintenance to be conducted at Ingham. The flight from Tully to Ingham was conducted in the morning, with no reported difficulties. At 1454 Eastern Standard Time, the pilot departed Ingham on the return flight to Tully. The aircraft did not arrive at Tully. It was not until the next day that the pilot and aircraft were reported missing. Australian Search and Rescue (AusSAR) was notified and a search, based on the last air traffic control radar observed position of an unidentified aircraft from a replay of recorded radar data together with witness reports from the area, was initiated. Searchers located the aircraft wreckage on the morning of 18 August. The aircraft had impacted mountainous terrain in a state forest 24 km south of Tully. The pilot was fatally injured and the aircraft was destroyed.
Probable cause:
Contributing safety factors:
• The aircraft probably entered an area of weather that deteriorated below visual meteorological conditions and for which the pilot was not experienced or qualified.
• The pilot probably became unsure of his position in poor visibility, leading to controlled flight into terrain, fatally injuring the pilot and destroying the aircraft.
Other safety factors:
• The aircraft had not been configured for poor visibility operations, possibly increasing the pilot’s difficulty in navigating.
• The pilot did not submit any form of flight notification such as a SARTIME or Flight Note, as required for a flight in a designated remote area, resulting in a delay to the search and rescue response.
• The operator did not have procedures to provide assurance that a search and rescue would be initiated in a timely way if one of their aircraft did not arrive at the planned destination. [Safety issue]
• As a result of damage to the emergency locator beacon antenna, the beacon did not alert search and rescue organisations to the aircraft accident.
Final Report:

Crash of a Piper PA-31-350 Navajo Chieftain near Raglan: 3 killed

Date & Time: Oct 31, 2006 at 1855 LT
Operator:
Registration:
VH-ZGZ
Flight Phase:
Flight Type:
Survivors:
No
Schedule:
Emerald – Gladstone
MSN:
31-7752006
YOM:
1977
Country:
Region:
Crew on board:
1
Crew fatalities:
Pax on board:
2
Pax fatalities:
Other fatalities:
Total fatalities:
3
Captain / Total flying hours:
3900
Captain / Total hours on type:
70.00
Aircraft flight hours:
3977
Circumstances:
The aircraft was being operated on a private category instrument flight rules (IFR) flight from Emerald to Gladstone, Qld. On board the aircraft were the pilot in command and two passengers. One of the passengers was a qualified pilot, but who was not endorsed on the aircraft type. After departing Emerald at 1807 Eastern Standard Time, the pilot contacted air traffic control and reported climbing to 7,000 ft with an estimated time of arrival at Gladstone of 1915. At 1813:25, air traffic control advised the pilot that ZGZ was radar identified 15 NM east of Emerald. At 1815:12, the pilot requested clearance to climb to 9,000 ft. At 1817:05, air traffic control issued a clearance to the pilot for the aircraft to climb 9,000 ft, and to track direct to Gladstone. At 1820:26, the pilot reported level at 9,000 ft and requested clearance to divert up to 10 NM left and right of track to avoid anticipated weather activity ahead. Air traffic control approved that request. At 1830:56, the pilot requested clearance to divert up to 15 NM left and right of track, and 10 seconds later changed the request to 15 NM left of track. Air traffic control approved that request. At 1835:17, the pilot reported clear of the weather and requested clearance to track direct to Gladstone and to descend to 7,000 ft. Air traffic control approved those requests. At 1848:52, the pilot reported at ‘top of descent’ to Gladstone. Air traffic control cleared the pilot to descend. At 1852:45, the pilot reported changing frequency to the Gladstone common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF). Air traffic control advised the pilot that the aircraft was leaving 5,500 ft and that the radar and control services were terminated. The pilot acknowledged that transmission at 1852:57. Approximately 3 minutes later, at 1855:45, air traffic control noticed that the aircraft’s symbol was no longer evident on the air situation display screen and the controller attempted to contact the pilot of the aircraft by radio. The controller also requested pilots of other aircraft operating in the Gladstone area to attempt to contact the pilot of ZGZ on the Gladstone CTAF frequency. All attempts were unsuccessful. A witness in the Raglan area recalled hearing the sound of aircraft engine(s) overhead. He then heard the engine(s) ‘roar and shut off again’ a few times. A short time later, he saw a flash and a few seconds later heard the sound of an explosion. He realised that the aircraft had crashed and telephoned the Gladstone Police. Subsequently, wreckage of the aircraft was located near Raglan, approximately 39 km west of Gladstone. The three occupants were fatally injured. The aircraft was destroyed by impact forces and post-impact fire.
Probable cause:
From the evidence available, the following findings are made with respect to the loss of control event involving Piper Aircraft Corporation PA-31-350 aircraft registered VH-ZGZ and should not be read as apportioning blame or liability to any particular organisation or individual.
Contributing safety factors:
• The aircraft diverged left from a steady, controlled descent and entered a steep, left spiral descent from which recovery was not achieved.
Other safety factors:
• The dark and very likely cloudy conditions that existed in the area where the aircraft suddenly diverged from its flight path meant that recovery to normal flight could only have been achieved by sole reference to the aircraft’s flight instruments. The difficulty associated with such a task when the aircraft was in a steep descent was likely to have been significant.
Final Report: