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Analysis

Summary

Witnesses observed the C182 at low altitude on approach to Turalla. Their reports that the wings were rocking from side to side were consistent with the turbulence that may have been produced in the lee of the escarpment by the strong wind. Down draughts and rotor turbulence could have resulted from the vigorous airflow at right angles to the escarpment, immediately to the west of the airstrip, and existed for a considerable distance downwind of the escarpment.

An approach to land in those conditions should not have placed any exceptional demand on the pilot's skill. The strip was aligned nearly into wind and the pilot was familiar with both the airstrip and the aircraft. The pilot had probably flown from the airstrip in similar conditions previously and should have been aware of the potential for turbulence and down draughts. The landing distance available was more than adequate for the aircraft type.

In turbulent conditions a pilot can elect to use less than maximum flap, or even no flap for the approach and landing. In a strong headwind, this would not significantly increase the aircraft's landing distance. Using less than full flap on the C182 can improve aircraft handling in turbulence. However, using less flap at lower airspeeds and higher angles of bank, significantly increases the aircraft stall speed.

Although the reason the approach was discontinued was unable to be determined, it was possible that the approach became unstable in the turbulence with airspeed fluctuations. The pilot appeared to have turned right to initiate a low-level circuit. Familiarity with the airstrip and anticipating turbulence in the lee of the escarpment may have been the reason that the pilot initiated a right turn rather than climbing straight ahead, which could have placed the aircraft into an area of increased turbulence. The direction of turn was consistent also with the pilot turning away from the glare of the setting sun. The pilot's memory of his siblings' accident may have influenced the decision-making process to make a rapid escape from the area of turbulence.

Witnesses reported that the aircraft's angle of bank was between 60 and 80 degrees when the approach was discontinued. There was no apparent reason for a steep turn to be made. There was no necessity for the pilot to rapidly make another approach and landing. There were adequate margins for both daylight and fuel.

The altitude at which the aircraft was seen to be operating would probably not have been sufficient to allow recovery from a stall, even with a pilot proficient in the technique. It was also possible that at the extreme angles of bank, a sudden loss of lift resulting from windshear or turbulence, or a rapid retraction of the manually operated flaps, could have placed the aircraft in a stalled condition from which recovery would have been unlikely at such a low height.

 
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