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The ATSB has found that a stabilised approach and a ground proximity warning system would have reduced the risk of the controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accident that occurred at Coffs Harbour on 15 May 2003.

The final Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigation report was released today. According to the ATSB, the King Air aircraft hit the sea or a reef near the Coffs Harbour boat harbour during an instrument approach in heavy rain and poor visibility. Although the aircraft was damaged and the left main landing gear was broken off, the aircraft kept flying and just cleared a nearby restaurant.

The pilot was able to carry out an emergency landing at Coffs Harbour and there were no injuries.

The reason the pilot allowed the aircraft to descend below the minimum descent altitude (MDA) for the approach when the runway was not in sight was unclear. However, the ATSB investigators believe there were a number of factors that contributed to the inadvertent descent including high pilot workload related to hand flying a steep descent in bad weather and the absence of adequate defences against CFIT. The aircraft's rate of descent may also have been accelerated by downdrafts associated with the heavy rain.

Defences against CFIT include adequate standard operating procedures, stabilised approach criteria, missed approach criteria and ground proximity warning systems.

Copies of the report (Aviation Safety Investigation Report 200302172) can be downloaded from the website.

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Last update 01 April 2011