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Analysis

Summary

The combination of near maximum takeoff weight, and the reduction of engine power to 81% soon after takeoff, meant that the aircraft had marginal climb performance when it encountered the turbulence and associated downdrafts. By not using the full takeoff distance available the pilot placed the aircraft on a climb profile that reduced terrain clearance and increased the risk of exposure to strong downdrafts.

The pilot's judgement may have been influenced by previous flights where different wind directions and lower wind strengths combined to give more favourable takeoff conditions. Additionally, the detrimental effect of an early power reduction would not have been as perceptible on training flights conducted at lower aircraft weights where the aircraft's climb performance would have been far greater. Although turbulence in the lee of the headland may have been present on previous occasions, the pilot had not encountered any significant downdraft activity. Consequently he was unprepared for conditions of that severity.

Although the pilot turned left to avoid the elevated terrain when the aircraft descended in the turbulence, it was likely that the flight path placed the aircraft into even stronger downdraft activity. Without the immediate application of a higher power setting, the aircraft did not have sufficient performance margin to continue the climb or maintain altitude.

From the point where the pilot attempted to land the aircraft there was insufficient water distance remaining on which to land and stop the aircraft normally. The aircraft contacted the beach at a speed that was fast enough, when combined with the high centre of gravity of the aircraft type, to cause it to overturn.

 
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