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Summary

Summary

On 8 June 1998, at 0855 EST, the pilot of a Boeing 737 air transport aircraft reported receiving an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal about 25 NM west of Melbourne. The pilots of several other aircraft also reported hearing the emergency beacon signal on 121.5 MHZ. At 0949 the Australian search and rescue centre received the distress signal via a satellite and had a possible location in the Mount Macedon area. At 1012, VH-SAR, a dedicated search aircraft, departed Moorabbin tasked with locating the beacon using a homing device. The pilot of SAR reported that the cloud tops over Mount Macedon were about 4,500 ft. By about 1245, Cessna 210, UNH, was assessed to be the missing aircraft. UNH had been conducting a no search and rescue (NOSAR), visual flight rules (VFR) flight from Bendigo to Moorabbin. At 1302 a ground party discovered the wreckage of UNH on the north western slope of the Mount Macedon feature at a ground elevation of about 2,840 ft above mean sea level (AMSL). The aircraft had cut a 100 metre swath through tall trees in the direction of 060 degrees magnetic. Both wings and the tail plane were torn off before the fuselage impacted sloping ground.

Melbourne radar recorded only one minute 35 seconds of UNH's flight path. UNH had maintained a steady track of about 160 degrees magnetic at 122 kts groundspeed from Kyneton before turning east in the Woodend area. Shortly thereafter the aircraft turned onto an east north easterly heading before disappearing off radar. Briefly during the recorded easterly turn, the radar recorded a groundspeed of 153 kts. The groundspeed then decreased to 77 kts just before the aircraft disappeared off the radar screen. The forecast wind at the time was 180 deg (true) at 20 kts at 2,000 ft AMSL, and 170/20 kts at 5,000 ft. There was no altitude recorded for UNH on the radar tape.

A few minutes before the accident a qualified pilot, on the ground 6.5 km S of Kyneton, witnessed an aircraft meeting the description of UNH. This aircraft was flying SE at about 500 ft above ground level (AGL) just below the cloud. The weather to the north of Kyneton was clear sunshine. The cloud line was from Kyneton to the northern edge of Woodend. The Mount Macedon feature was obscured by cloud. The aircraft maintained a steady track towards Gisborne. He reported that the aircraft's engine sounded normal. He lost sight of the aircraft as it neared Woodend. At 0829 two other people heard an aircraft flying very low over their house near Woodend but they did not see it. They described the weather conditions as heavy fog to below the tops of tall trees. Another qualified pilot witnessed the weather from the ground in the Woodend area at about the time of the accident. He described the cloud as low stratus in the form of fog. He also said that Mount Macedon was not visible due to cloud coverage.

The ground level at Kyneton was about 1700 ft AMSL and at Woodend about 1900 ft, compared to about 2,840 ft at the accident site.

The Bureau of Meteorology described the weather conditions as: "Rain showers and drizzle accompanied by patchy low cloud, generally widespread on and south of the Great Dividing Range mainly east of 144 deg E, while conditions to the north were quite clear due to the drying out of the airstream". There was no cloud and excellent visibility at Bendigo and visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed at Moorabbin. At Melbourne airport, 30 minutes after the accident, there were three OKTAS of cloud at 300 ft AGL, seven OKTAS at 800 ft, plus drizzle.

The 37 year old pilot held a private pilot's licence, issued in August 1982. He was qualified to fly the Cessna 210, UNH, which he owned. He held a valid class two medical certificate with a restriction of needing vision correction to meet the near vision standard. No evidence was found that the pilot was suffering from any medical condition which could have contributed to the accident. Vision correction spectacles were found at the accident site and a taxi driver, who drove the pilot to Bendigo airport on the morning of the accident, stated that the pilot was wearing spectacles. The pilot had logged total flight time of 340 hours, comprised of 120 hours dual and 220 hours as pilot-in-command by day. He had never qualified for an instrument rating. He had logged only eight hours of simulated instrument flight time but was reported to have gained more simulated instrument flight rules (IFR) experience by practising with a safety pilot in accordance with the provisions of Civil Aviation Regulation 153. He was reported to have accrued 1.5 hours simulated IFR flight time as recently as 30 May 1998 between Mildura and Leigh Creek. His last biennial flight review was conducted on 28 May 1998. From 29 May 1998 until 8 June 1998, the pilot had logged 17 hours as pilot-in-command of UNH. He had shared the flying with another private pilot from Moorabbin to the Northern Territory to Bendigo. He was on the last leg of the return flight from the Northern Territory to Moorabbin when the accident occurred.

Late on the afternoon of 7 June 1998, the pilot, his companion pilot and two passengers had arrived at Bendigo in UNH. They refuelled the aircraft with 243 litres of AVGAS. Their intention was to continue the flight to Moorabbin that day but as there was some doubt about reaching Moorabbin before last light, the pilot elected to remain overnight at Bendigo and to continue the flight on 8 June 1998, weather permitting. For reasons unrelated to the accident, the companion pilot and one of the passengers elected to be driven by road to Melbourne on the night of 7 August 1998.

At 0644 on the morning of 8 June 1998, the pilot telephoned an Airservices Australia briefing officer and was given weather details for the proposed flight from Bendigo to Moorabbin. He did not submit a flight plan or a search and rescue time (SARTIME) to the briefing office for the flight. A flight log sheet, found in the aircraft after the accident, confirmed that the pilot had planned the flight from Bendigo to Moorabbin via Kyneton, Mount Cottrell and Point Ormond. On the recent flight legs from Victoria to the Northern Territory and return the pilot had nominated SARTIMEs to Airservices Australia.

For the trip to the Northern Territory and return to Victoria, the pilot had used his portable Garmin 195 global positioning system (GPS) to assist with navigation. He was reported to have been quite competent with its use. Another pilot, who had flown UNH in the past, using a similar portable GPS, reported experiencing erratic GPS tracking in the Mount Macedon area. However, on 30 June 1998 Airservices conducted flight test trials in the Mount Macedon area using a Gulfstream Commander 1000 test aircraft fitted with five GPS receivers. One GPS was a hand held Garmin GPS 90 with an external antenna, comparable to the GPS used in UNH. No fault was found with GPS tracking in the Mount Macedon area at the time of the trials.

The aircraft was examined at the accident site before being retrieved to Moorabbin airport where it was subjected to detailed examination. Evidence was found at the accident site that there was fuel on board the aircraft at impact. Damage sustained by the engine crankshaft confirmed that the engine was producing power at impact. No fault was found with the airframe or engine which may have contributed to the accident. Damage sustained by instruments and avionics was consistent with impact forces.

 
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