Agricultural pilots are being reminded of the dangers associated with flying near wires following the release of an ATSB booklet today.

The booklet, released in association with the Aerial Agriculture Association of Australia, highlights recent wirestrike accidents that occurred while pilots were conducting spraying activities.

Importantly, the report provides ways for pilots to minimise the risk of striking a powerline while conducting aerial operations.

ATSB Manager of Research Investigations, Dr Stuart Godley, said that in the majority of wirestrike accidents the pilots had known of the powerlines before they struck them.

'Typically, pilots have been working around the same wires in the hours before a wirestrike accident,' Dr Godley says.

'Due to a change of spraying plans or a clean-up run once a paddock has been sprayed, the pilot's focus is temporarily shifted away from the task of identifying the location of wires.'

The booklet provides methods for pilots to minimise the risk of striking wires while conducting aerial operations. These are:

  • setting client expectations so that they are clear that safety comes first
  • conducting an aerial reconnaissance before spraying and extra aerial reconnaissance before the cleanup run
  • reassessing the risks when plans change
  • avoiding unnecessary distractions and refocussing when distracted
  • keeping vigilance limitations in mind
  • actively looking for wire
  • managing operational pressures including not accepting tasks that are beyond your personal minimums
  • having a systematic approach to safely managing wires.

The report also highlights the role of landholders and utility owners in contributing to safety. This includes installing markers on wires, particularly where regular low-level flying takes place.

The booklet Wirestrikes involving known wires: A manageable aerial agriculture hazard is available on the ATSB website.

Media contact: 1800 020 616
Last update 08 June 2011