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Approximately thirty minutes after departure a peculiar odour was noticed in the cabin which the pilot attributed to a boiling battery. He turned off the master switch and, since the odour then partially dissipated, continued the flight and advised that he would only use the aircraft's electrics to report at scheduled times. However, as the flight progressed, the fumes in the cabin became so obnoxious that a forced landing became imperative. The pilot advised his intentions and landed on a lone small claypan but over-ran into the surrounding uneven sand. During the landing the forward baggage compartment door flew open and portions of a burning foam plastic mattress fell out, igniting small spinifex bushes. After disembarkation, the fire, now obviously in the baggage compartment, was quickly extinguished and the spinifex fires were trampled out. The investigation established that a rolled foam mattress, which was the last item loaded at Birdsville, partially unravelled itself in flight and contacted the illuminated hot naked bulb in the baggage compartment light causing the foam to smoulder and emit acrid smoke and fumes which were carried back to the cabin. The composition of the foam was such that the smouldering would continue even when the heat source was removed but it is probable that the mattress did not burst into flames until the door flew open during the landing roll.
Download Final Report
[ Download PDF: 151KB]
General details
Date: 24 August 1970 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 0900 CST  
Location   (show map):Simpson Desert Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Northern Territory Occurrence type: Fumes 
Release date: 10 April 1972 Occurrence class: Operational 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Accident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Piper Aircraft Corp 
Aircraft model: PA-32 
Aircraft registration: VH-BIC 
Type of operation: Business 
Damage to aircraft: Substantial 
Departure point:Birdsville
Departure time:0710
Destination:Alice Springs
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Last update 10 June 2014