Aviation safety investigations & reports

Piper PA32R, VH-RFW, 26 km NE Kempsey NSW, 11 October 1990

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 24KB]

The aircraft had flown from Bendigo to Mudgee where it was refuelled. After leaving Mudgee the pilot diverted from his planned route due to weather and tracked via Muswellbrook, Maitland, Gloucester, and Taree. At 1626 hours the pilot reported at Port Macquarie at 5 000 ft and requested airways clearance. The aircraft was cleared to track coastal to Coffs Harbour and to enter the control area at 4 500 ft. The pilot's acknowledgement of this clearance was the last recorded transmission from the aircraft. The estimated entry time for the control area (at 25 nm from Coffs Harbour) was 1642 hours. At 1645 Coffs Harbour Flight Information Service attempted to contact the aircraft for traffic purposes, but there was no reply. At 1807 hours a search aircraft reported an Emergency Locator Beacon signal on 121.5 Mhz in the South West Rocks area. However, due to the inaccessible nature of the terrain, and mist after dark, the wreckage was not found until 0330 on the following morning. The accident site was in the Hat Head National Park, about 38 nm from Coffs Harbour, and about 4 nm east of the direct Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour track. The aircraft had struck trees, in a wings level attitude, at a descent angle of 16 degrees to the horizontal, on a track of 021 degrees. Although subsequently destroyed, the aircraft had been intact at initial impact. Witnesses reported that a severe electrical storm with hail had passed through the area between Kempsey and South West Rocks between 1630 and 1700 hours. Based on estimated time intervals and known groundspeeds, it was considered that the accident occurred at about 1638-1640 hours. A Bureau of Meteorology analysis indicated that at this time the severe thunderstorm would have been almost over the accident site. Severe updraughts and downdraughts are known to occur in the vicinity of such large storms and the magnitude of such downdraughts could exceed the climb capability of a light aircraft.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 24KB]
General details
Date: 11 October 1990   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1640    
Location: 26 km NE Kempsey    
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
Release date: 05 December 1991   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Fatal  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Piper Aircraft Corp  
Aircraft model PA-32  
Aircraft registration VH-RFW  
Serial number 32R-7780164  
Type of operation Private  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Departure point Mudgee NSW  
Departure time 1446  
Destination Coffs Harbour NSW