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Summary

Summary

The aircraft took off from a private airstrip on Farm 1303 at Whitton NSW on a flight to spray chemical on two paddocks at Farm 2339, Dalton Road, Yenda. Eyewitnesses reported watching the aircraft spray the first paddock using north-south oriented runs. When the first paddock was completed, the pilot commenced spraying the second using east-west oriented runs, starting at the northern end of the paddock. After making several spray runs, the pilot finished a run heading in an easterly direction. He pulled the aircraft up and commenced a right procedure turn to line up for the next run in a westerly direction. While lining up for this run, the left wingtip struck the upper branches of a large dead tree which was located close to the boundary of the paddock being sprayed. The point of impact was approximately 0.5 m inboard of the left wingtip. A piece of branch, 200 mm in diameter, broke off the tree. The left wingtip and several small pieces of wing material separated from the aircraft at impact.

Eyewitnesses reported that the aircraft immediately rolled to the left and impacted the ground inverted. The aircraft slid along the ground before coming to rest inverted. The aircraft did not catch fire but was destroyed by impact forces. The pilot received fatal injuries. Witnesses advised that the weather conditions at the time of the accident were clear skies and light winds. Being late afternoon, the sun was visible in the western sky.

Examination of the accident site revealed that the aircraft had struck branches about 20 m above ground level with its left wingtip. The wingtip and several pieces of the wing landed up to 180 m west of the tree. Ground scars indicated that the aircraft impacted the ground inverted. The fuselage, wings and empennage remained relatively intact and were located approximately 41 m south of the initial ground-impact marks. Propeller slash marks indicated that the engine was producing power at ground impact. The cockpit truss had separated from the fuselage and was located about 22 m from the aircraft's final resting position. The ailerons were jammed in the neutral position.

Examination of the wreckage did not reveal any pre-existing defects or malfunctions that would have precluded other than normal operation. An inspection of the maintenance records showed that all required maintenance had been completed.

The pilot was the holder of a commercial pilot licence and was appropriately qualified for the flight. He had held a Grade 1 agricultural rating since 11 September 1985 and had flown 14,816 hours. At the time of the accident, the aircraft's calculated weight was 2,876 kg, less than the maximum weight authorised for agricultural operations of 3,042 kg. The aircraft's calculated centre of gravity was within limits.

The aircraft was fitted with a Satloc navigation system, which provided the pilot with guidance commands to fly accurate spray patterns. The guidance indications were displayed on a light bar which was mounted on top of the fuselage in front of the aircraft windscreen. The display was approximately 1 m in front of the pilot's eyes. Witnesses suggested that the pilot normally used the Satloc system and its light bar indicator during spraying operations.

 
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