Aviation safety investigations & reports

Piper Aircraft Corp PA-32-300, VH-POW

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


The Piper Cherokee was being flown from Jamestown SA, to Kilfera Station, NSW where the pilot and passenger were to attend a field day. Witnesses at the property reported seeing the aircraft fly overhead and join the circuit on the downwind leg, for a landing in a westerly direction. The final approach was described by witnesses as being slightly high and fast, with the aircraft touching down approximately one third, to half way along the 900 m airstrip. After a short ground roll, the engine noise was heard to increase and the aircraft became airborne just before the end of the airstrip. Although the aircraft adopted an unusually nose-high attitude, it did not appear to be gaining height.

The left wing of the aircraft struck a radio mast approximately 8.5 m above ground level. The outboard section of the left wing and aileron were separated 1.25 m from the wingtip. The aircraft rolled to the left and passed through the upper foliage and branches of a large tree. The aircraft continued to roll inverted and collided with the ground. An intense post-impact fire consumed the aircraft wreckage and an adjacent building. The pilot and passenger sustained fatal injuries.

The homestead and property buildings were situated beyond the western end of the airstrip. The radio mast was approximately 104 m beyond the end of the airstrip, 32 m to the left of the extended runway centreline. There was no windsock at the landing area, nor was there a requirement for one. The pilot was experienced in remote area operations and had operated from property airstrips on many previous occasions.

On-site examination of the aircraft wreckage did not reveal any pre-existing defect that may have contributed to the circumstances of the occurrence. Propeller slash marks on the tree were consistent with the engine operation described by witnesses. The flaps were in the fully extended position and the intensity of the post-impact fire indicated that a substantial amount of fuel had been onboard. The aircraft's weight and balance was assessed as being within approved limits at the time of the accident.

The Area 22 forecast issued by the Bureau of Meteorology indicated that the aircraft would have encountered a tailwind on the easterly track to Ivanhoe, with fine conditions enroute. The aerodrome forecast for Ivanhoe predicted a light southeasterly wind of approximately 10 knots. It was not possible to determine whether the pilot had obtained this information prior to departure from Jamestown. No activity had been recorded on the pilot's Avfax briefing account for the day of the accident.

Photographs taken immediately after the accident provided evidence to support witness observations of wind velocity. It was estimated that there was a downwind component of approximately 10 knots at the time of the approach and landing. Although there was no windsock available, the pilot should have been familiar with alternative methods of determining wind velocity. It is possible that the pilot's perception of the wind direction was influenced by the tailwind conditions that he had encountered enroute.

The aircraft's climb performance would have been substantially degraded with full flap extended and the nose-high attitude described by witnesses. In that configuration, the pilot would have experienced difficulty in accelerating the aircraft to a safe flying speed. The aircraft's nose-high attitude during the climb would have obstructed the pilot's forward vision and he may have been unaware that the aircraft had diverged from the extended centreline of the airstrip.

General details
Date: 30 September 1998   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1100 hours EST    
Location   (show map): Kilfera Station, 24 Km SW Ivanhoe    
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
Release date: 20 August 1999   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-POW  
Serial number 32-40062  
Type of operation Private  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Departure point Jamestown, SA  
Departure time 0830 hours EST  
Destination Kilfera Station, NSW  
Crew details
Role Class of licence Hours on type Hours total
Pilot-in-Command Private 820
  Crew Passenger Ground Total
Fatal: 1 1 0 2
Total: 1 1 0 2
Last update 13 May 2014