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Summary

Summary

The privately operated Cessna 172 was being used to muster cattle on a station near Halls Creek in Western Australia. One of the station workers said that the pilot reported by radio that he had found some cattle in timber country that he could not move. The worker, who was not aviation qualified, advised the pilot to "bomb them". He meant the pilot should fly low and scare the cattle. About 2 minutes later, he heard a bang and saw a cloud of dust about 500 m to the east, but did not see the accident. The pilot was fatally injured. The ATSB did not conduct an on-site investigation into the accident.

The wreckage trail extended about 22 m from where the aircraft had hit a tree and just 12 m from where it first hit the ground. An inspection of the wreckage revealed no pre-existing mechanical fault that may have contributed to the accident.

The pilot was inexperienced; having a total of just over 400 flying hours, acquired over about 10 years. He had about 330 flying hours in aeroplanes, of which about 125 hours were in command or in command under supervision. Although the pilot finished training for the mustering qualification about 1 month before the accident, at that time he had insufficient in-command flying hours to apply for an approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). Subsequently, the pilot conducted several flights with the station manager, who was a qualified mustering pilot, to gain sufficient flying hours for the approval. He applied for a mustering approval 8 days before the accident, but the CASA representative advised the pilot that there would be a delay in processing the paperwork and issuing the approval. The CASA representative reported that she also advised him not to conduct mustering until the approval was issued. The station manager reported that the pilot did not tell him of the CASA advice.

According to the station manager, the pilot began flying mustering operations as the pilot in command the day after the documentation was submitted to CASA. The station manager also said he thought that the pilot had received sufficient guidance and training to operate in the conditions on the day without supervision.

The approved pilot who trained the pilot to conduct mustering operations reported that the pilot was an excellent student who seemed eager to please. He also reported that during training, the pilot appeared to be overly concerned about achieving required standards within a certain amount of time. The station manager also reported that the pilot appeared to be very eager, with an unquestioning approach to learning the job.

The weather report indicated that wind conditions at the time were fresh and gusty from the east with a significant wind shear in the lower levels. The wind speed at 2,000 ft above sea level was 22 kts, and at 3,000 ft was 46 kts. The surface wind at the time of the accident was reported to be about 15 kts, but had become blustery and gusting to about 35 kts within about an hour of the accident. Consequently, it is likely that the wind strength and direction were variable and unpredictable at the heights at which the pilot was operating.

In the absence of any associated aircraft mechanical fault, the evidence was consistent with the pilot losing control of the aircraft while manoeuvring at low level in adverse wind conditions. The pilot's eagerness and lack of experience may have influenced him to operate the aircraft in a manner inappropriate for the weather conditions at the time.

 
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