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The ATSB investigation Preliminary Report into the accident in which six lives were lost when a privately operated Piper Cheyenne aircraft crashed near Benalla, Victoria, on 28 July 2004, found that the aircraft was off course for a substantial period.

The aircraft departed Bankstown, NSW that morning, and travelled via Jervis Bay. The pilot then contacted air traffic control requesting a track from abeam Ulladulla to Benalla. The route flown did not pass directly over any ground based navigation aids and the pilot relied on the global positioning system (GPS) for navigation and for the approach, through cloud, to Benalla.

Recorded radar data indicated that the aircraft's track was a consistent 3.83 degrees left of the direct track from Jervis Bay.

After an extensive search, the aircraft wreckage was located in mountainous terrain, 34 km south-east of Benalla. The impact and an intense post-impact fire destroyed the aircraft, including its instruments and GPS navigation equipment. On-site examination found that the aircraft had collided with trees when in a wings-level, climbing attitude and with the landing gear and flaps extended for a landing approach.

Examination of the aircraft's maintenance records has not identified any mechanical or systems defect that might have influenced the circumstances of the accident.

The investigation is examining a number of issues of possible safety significance. The ATSB expects to release an Interim Factual report by February 2005.

Copies of the Report Aviation Safety Investigation Report 200402797

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Last update 01 April 2011