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Fatal amateur-built aircraft accident prompts safety recommendation

A fatal accident involving an amateur-built aircraft has prompted the ATSB to issue a formal safety recommendation to Australia’s aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). The recommendation urges CASA to take action to require builders of amateur-built experimental aircraft to produce a flight manual, or equivalent, for their aircraft following flight testing.

  Amateur-built One Design DR-107 aircraft, registered VH-EGT

The accident occurred on the afternoon of 10 October 2014, when the pilot of an amateur-built One Design DR-107 aircraft was performing low-level aerobatic manoeuvres. The manoeuvres were being performed to the east of Goolwa Airport, South Australia.

Witnesses described the aircraft performing a series of similar manoeuvres. Each involved a vertical climb and tumbling manoeuvre followed by a vertical dive and a low altitude recovery.

Witnesses reported that, during recovery from the last vertical dive, the aircraft collided with terrain. The aircraft was destroyed by the impact and the pilot was fatally injured.

The ATSB found no evidence of pilot incapacitation or a mechanical fault with the aircraft that could have contributed to the accident. There was insufficient evidence to determine why the recovery was not accomplished above the pilot’s minimum authorised aerobatics height.

CASA recommends that pilots performing low-level aerobatics undertake regular peer reviews due to the high level of skill and fine safety margins involved. The ATSB found no evidence of the pilot undertaking a peer review of their aerobatic performance in the 15 months prior to the accident.

The ATSB identified a safety issue that CASA does not require builders of amateur-built experimental aircraft to produce a flight manual, or equivalent, for their aircraft following flight testing. Without a flight manual, the builder, subsequent owners and other pilots do not have reference to the operational and performance data necessary to safely operate the aircraft.

In response to this safety issue, the ATSB has issued a safety recommendation to CASA to take action to require builders of amateur-built experimental aircraft to produce a flight manual, or equivalent, for their aircraft following flight testing. CASA has 90 days to formally respond to the ATSB’s safety recommendation.

Safety message

This accident highlights the risks inherent in performing low-level aerobatics. Applying the recommendations in CASA civil aviation advisory publication CAAP 155-1(0) Aerobatics will reduce these risks. Specifically, pilots are encouraged to always maintain minimum approved heights above the ground when performing aerobatics and to engage in regular peer reviews.

Owners of amateur-built experimental aircraft are also encouraged to ensure a comprehensive and accurate flight manual, or equivalent, is available for reference by themselves, subsequent owners and other pilots who may fly the aircraft.

Read the investigation report AO-2014-163

 
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Last update 20 October 2016