The pilot, the sole occupant of the Cessna 210 aircraft, was conducting a charter positioning flight from Groote Eylandt to Numbulwar. Witnesses reported that shortly after the aircraft took off from runway 10, it diverged to the right of the runway heading. The aircraft was reported to maintain level flight, at about 20 ft above ground level, and track towards the operator's ticketing office where a company pilot occupied the office, with the door closed, at the time. As the aircraft passed over the office it banked left and adopted a nose-high attitude. The witnesses then saw the aircraft hit a palm tree next to the office, and one saw an object fall from the aircraft. They then saw the aircraft lose altitude and disappear behind buildings. Shortly afterwards, the aircraft was observed on the ground, sliding towards the runway where it came to rest and an intense fire broke out. Although the pilot was able to exit the aircraft unaided, he later died from injuries sustained during the accident. The aircraft was destroyed by impact forces and post-impact fire.
The ticketing office was a converted shipping container situated next to a steel and corrugated iron shelter used as a passenger waiting area. There was a 6.6 m high very high frequency (VHF) aerial attached to the north side of the shelter and two large palm trees immediately south of the office. The office was approximately 150 m south of the runway centreline, 1130 m from the threshold of runway 10 and adjacent to the south-east corner of the sealed aircraft parking area. There was a light pole 5.2 m northeast of the VHF aerial.
The investigation established that the aircraft's left wingtip struck one of the floodlights on the light pole 5.2 m above the ground, detaching the floodlight, the wingtip and the aircraft's strobe light power unit attached to the outer wing rib. The left horizontal stabiliser struck the VHF aerial 5.6 m above the ground. The outer third of the left horizontal stabiliser and the left elevator were detached from the aircraft. A number of palm fronds were also detached from the two palm trees. The relative position of the impact marks indicated that the aircraft was in a left bank and nose-up pitch attitude at the time it struck the floodlight and aerial.
The damaged extremities of the left wing contacted the ground approximately 155 m from the light tower, leaving a shallow ground scar for 21 m before the propeller struck the ground. The aircraft continued to travel across the ground for a further 80 m before coming to rest, upright, within the runway flight strip immediately adjacent to the sealed runway surface. The landing gear and flaps were retracted and all flight control cables were intact and attached. The left wing and cockpit area were destroyed by fire. Ground contact marks and damage to the propeller were consistent with the engine delivering substantial power at impact.
The aircraft had been out of service for 2 months prior to the accident, due to difficulty in obtaining parts to complete a periodic maintenance inspection. The maintenance organisation completed the inspection on 22 March 2002. Although the current maintenance release had been damaged by the fire, there was no indication on the recovered parts of the maintenance release that any defects had been recorded on it. The accident pilot had flown the aircraft from Darwin to Groote Eylandt, via Gove, on the morning of the day before the accident. Another company pilot flew the aircraft on the afternoon of the day before the accident and again on the morning of the accident. The aircraft had completed 5.1 hours time in service since the periodic inspection and neither pilot had reported any aircraft defect that may have contributed to the accident.
The operator had three bases, with the chief pilot and check and training pilot both located at the head office in Darwin. Pilots new to the company were initially based at Groote Eylandt. At the time of the accident, there were three pilots and a base manager on the island. One pilot normally based on Groote Eylandt held the position of senior base pilot and had oversight of operational issues. On the morning of the accident, the senior base pilot had travelled from Groote Eylandt to Darwin. The base manager had oversight of administrative and maintenance issues on the island. The pilot had started flying for the operator on 4 January 2002 and after conducting 2 flights from Darwin, began operating from Groote Eylandt on 8 January 2002.
A check of the pilot's personnel files from his present and previous employers did not reveal any record of him being formally counselled regarding any aspect of his flying. Company personnel described the pilot as reliable and professional in all areas of his duties. Company personnel on the island reported that the pilot apparently slept normally on the night prior to the accident flight and did not exhibit any uncharacteristic behaviour on the day of the accident. Post-mortem and toxicological examination did not identify any factor which may have impaired the pilot's ability to operate the aircraft safely.
At the time of the accident, the automatic weather station at the airport recorded the wind as 9 kts, gusting to 15 kts, from 100 degrees magnetic. Witnesses reported that the weather was generally fine with scattered cloud.
The investigation was unable to establish why the aircraft diverged from the runway heading immediately after take-off.
|Date:||24 March 2002||Investigation status:||Completed|
|Time:||1524 hours CST|
|Location:||Groote Eylandt, Aero.|
|State:||Northern Territory||Occurrence type:||Collision with terrain|
|Release date:||24 September 2002||Occurrence class:||Operational|
|Report status:||Final||Occurrence category:||Accident|
|Highest injury level:||Fatal|
|Aircraft manufacturer||Cessna Aircraft Company|
|Type of operation||Charter|
|Damage to aircraft||Destroyed|
|Departure point||Groote Eylandt, NT|
|Departure time||1524 hours CST|
|Role||Class of licence||Hours on type||Hours total|