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Factual Information


Personnel information

The pilot held a private pilot licence and a current medical certificate. His total flying experience was about 1,595 hours, of which about 19 were in the accident aircraft. He had flown 11 hours in the previous 30 days and about 8.5 hours on the day of the accident.

The pilot had obtained a NVFR rating in 1981 and a command instrument rating (single engine) in 1986. The instrument rating expired on 31 May 1997. There was no record that the pilot had maintained the recency requirements for these ratings. His logbook showed 305 hours of instrument flight time. However, it was not possible to determine his experience in flying in instrument meteorological conditions.

Meteorological information

The pilot obtained a weather forecast for the flight at about midday on the day of the accident. This included the forecast for the areas between Longreach and Dubbo and the terminal forecast for Coonamble. The forecast was for 3 octas of strato-cumulus cloud at 3,500 ft and 6 octas of alto-stratus cloud at 12,000 ft. Low cloud (base 800 ft) and drizzle were forecast for periods of less than 30 minutes between 1600 and midnight. Fog was not forecast for the period associated with the flight.

A cold front, including a band of middle and low-level cloud and associated rain, cleared the Coonamble area before 2100, leaving the sky mostly clear of cloud. Fog quickly developed in these conditions. An expected south-westerly change did not reach Coonamble until 0330 the following morning. Post-analysis of the synoptic situation indicated that the cloud cleared from the Coonamble area much earlier than expected, but was followed by the development of localised fog.

Aerodrome and approach information

Coonamble aerodrome is 604 ft above sea level. The 1,527 m sealed runway 05/23 was fitted with edge lighting but not approach lighting. A grass strip 12/30 intersected the western side of runway 05/23.

The aerodrome was served by a non-directional beacon (NDB) radio navigation aid located approximately 500 m to the north of the runway 23 threshold. A published instrument approach procedure using the NDB enabled aircraft to descend from 3,500 ft to 1,200 ft above sea level on an inbound track of 200 degrees M. At 1,200 ft an aircraft would have been 596 ft above the aerodrome elevation. The inbound track for the approach was 200 degrees M. If unable to see the runway when the aircraft was over the NDB at 1,200 ft, the procedure required that the pilot maintain a track of 200 degrees M, and climb to 3,500 ft.

Wreckage and impact information

The initial impact occurred about 120 m from the northwestern end of the grass runway while the aircraft was tracking 178 degrees M. Assuming an engine speed of 2,300 RPM, propeller slash marks at the accident site equated to an aircraft groundspeed of about 145 kts. The aircraft was descending at an angle of 5 degrees and was banked 32 degrees left. The landing gear and flaps were retracted. The wreckage trail extended 200 m beyond the initial impact point. The accident was not survivable.

No fault was found with the aircraft or its systems that may have contributed to the accident. At previous periodic inspections, the operational category of the aircraft had been downgraded from IFR to VFR Day. The serviceability status of the flight instruments at the time of the accident could not be established.

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