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On the morning of the accident, the pilot reported for duty between 0630 and 0645 in order to have his aircraft prepared by 0700 for the day's task. The aircraft had been refuelled the night before, as was the company standard practice. After loading the freight onto the aircraft, he departed Wagga for Jerilderie at 0804 with an estimate for Jerilderie of 0845. The aircraft had full fuel and 115 kg of freight. The flight was a standard company "Run 46". The flight plan indicated that the flight was to be conducted in the IFR category at 4,000 ft with a minimum safe altitude for the route to be flown of 3,300 ft.

At 0838 the pilot contacted Melbourne Flight Service (FS) and advised that he was 15 miles east of Jerilderie and would commence descent in one minute. FS responded that there was no reported IFR traffic. There was nothing further heard from the pilot after he acknowledged this transmission.

An eyewitness working near the maintenance shed on the property Bungoona, under the flight path and north of the accident site, observed the aircraft at an estimated altitude of 100 m (328 ft). The witness described the weather conditions as misty rain, like a very thick fog or low cloud. This observation is consistent with other witnesses in the vicinity of the accident site who heard but did not see the aircraft. It was observed to bank to the left and the witness lost sight of it as it passed behind the shed. He heard an explosion, ran to the other side of the shed and saw a ball of smoke. The time of the aircraft impact was approximately 0843.

Examination of the accident site and wreckage found that the aircraft had initially struck a small tree, before impacting the ground in a left turn with 13 degrees angle of bank and 52 degrees nose down. The aircraft broke up initiating a fire that consumed the fuel and much of the wreckage and freight. The centerline of the wreckage splay was 061 degrees magnetic and the wreckage trail was approximately 60 m in length, starting from the impact crater.

Examination of the wreckage did not find any pre-existing defects or malfunctions that would have precluded other than normal operation. The maintenance records showed that the aircraft had completed periodic maintenance on 9 June 1997. There were no outstanding maintenance action items at the time of the accident. The aircraft was due to undergo scheduled maintenance later in the week of the accident. Impact marks on the propeller and the nature of the blade damage indicated that the engine was operating under power at impact.

The pilot was the holder of a Commercial Pilots Licence and he was appropriately qualified for the flight. He was issued with an initial instrument rating on 15 December 1996 for single engine aircraft. He subsequently gained a Multi Engine Command Instrument Rating on 17 June 1997. He had accrued approximately 563 hours total flight time, with approximately 58 hours flight time using instruments as a sole reference. This information was obtained from the company computer "Duty Flight Times" log, as the pilot's logbook was destroyed in the accident. There were no entries for hours flown since 17 August 1997.

The specialist Bureau of Meteorology report, advised that conditions at the time of the accident were a cold front passing through the Deniliquin/Jerilderie district. The frontal change had passed through Jerilderie at 0843 hours EST and would have been approaching the accident site. The wind was 270 degrees magnetic, 15 gusting to 25 knots with some localised moderate turbulence associated with the passage of the change. The visibility was 4,000 m reducing to 2,000 m with moderate showers and light rain. The temperature was 8 degrees C and the barometric pressure was 1020 hPa.

The calculated aircraft weight at take-off, was 1477 kg with a maximum allowable weight of 1724 kg. The aircraft was within the weight and centre of gravity limits at the time of the accident.

Jerilderie aerodrome does not have a published instrument approach procedure. If the pilot was unable to make an approach in visual conditions, the company policy was for the pilot to proceed to Deniliquin.

 

Witness reports indicate that the pilot had established the aircraft below the cloud layer some distance from Jerilderie. The most likely reason for this was in order to make a visual approach to Jerilderie. However, in the area of the cold front, instrument meteorological conditions extended from the base of the cloud layer to the ground. With visibility rapidly reducing, the pilot had the option of continuing straight ahead and climbing in instrument meteorological conditions to the lower safe altitude of 3,300 ft, or turning back to remain in visual conditions. The pilot initiated a left turn and entered instrument meteorological conditions close to the ground. The turn would have required the pilot to fly with sole reference to flight instruments. The transition from visual flight to flight by sole reference to instruments may take several seconds, and an aircraft in a turn will generally loose altitude until the pilot takes corrective action. However, as the aircraft was at low altitude when it began the turn, it probably struck the ground before the pilot had completed his transition to instrument flight.

Although the pilot held an instrument rating, he had minimal experience of flight in actual instrument meteorological conditions. He may not have experienced the conditions that confronted him on this occasion. The combination of rapidly deteriorating weather, gusting winds and low altitude in conjunction with low experience and recency with actual flight in instrument meteorological conditions, would have required a high level of skill and experience.

 

The following factors were determined to have contributed to the accident.

  1. Weather conditions were deteriorating with the passage of the cold front precluding continued VFR flight.
  2. The pilot had minimal experience with flight in actual instrument meteorological conditions.
  3. The turn was conducted at low altitude in deteriorating weather requiring the pilot to fly with sole reference to instruments.
 
General details
Date: 26 August 1997 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 0843 hours EST Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
Location   (show map):16 km E Jerilderie, (ALA) Occurrence type:CFIT 
State: New South Wales Occurrence class: Operational 
Release date: 14 March 1998 Occurrence category: Accident 
Report status: Final Highest injury level: Fatal 
 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Cessna Aircraft Company 
Aircraft model: 210 
Aircraft registration: VH-NXC 
Serial number: 21062592 
Type of operation: Charter 
Damage to aircraft: Destroyed 
Departure point:Wagga, NSW
Departure time:0804 hours EST
Destination:Jerilderie, NSW
Crew details
RoleClass of licenceHours on typeHours total
Pilot-in-CommandCommercial563
 
Injuries
 CrewPassengerGroundTotal
Fatal: 1001
Total:1001
 
 
 
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Last update 13 May 2014