CFIT: Australia in context 1996 to 2005


Controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) has been identified as one of 'aviation's historic killers', claiming the lives of more than 35,000 people since the emergence of civil aviation in the 1920s. The purpose of this report was to provide an overview of CFIT from an international perspective, to examine current and potential CFIT preventative strategies, and to specifically identify those characteristics associated with CFIT in Australia.

A search of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau's (ATSB) aviation safety database identified 25 CFIT accidents and two CFIT incidents in the period 1996 to 2005. General aviation accounted for the greatest proportion of CFIT accidents, fatal accidents and fatalities. Only one CFIT occurrence over the reporting period (VH-TFU, Lockhart River, Queensland, 7 May 2005) involved regular public transport operations, but this accident accounted for nearly one-third of all CFIT fatalities. This highlights the catastrophic impact one CFIT accident involving passenger operations can have.

In line with international experience, nearly two-thirds of CFIT accidents and incidents in Australia occurred in the approach phase of flight, of which half of these were during an instrument approach.

When compared with the total number of accidents recorded by the ATSB over the 10-year period, the results of the study indicate that CFIT in Australia is a rare event. However, when CFIT does occur, the likelihood of it resulting in fatalities is high.

Type: Research and Analysis Report
Author(s): ATSB
Publication date: 19 December 2007
Last update 07 April 2014
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