Aviation safety investigations & reports

Piper Aircraft Corp PA-34-200, VH-CTT

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 11 November 2003, at about 1240 eastern summer time, a qualified pilot, with a flight instructor, was undertaking multi-engine aircraft training in a Piper Aircraft Corp PA-34-200 Seneca, registered VH-CTT. The training was to include flight with one engine intentionally set to produce little or no thrust. The pilot occupied the left front seat of the aircraft, and the instructor the right front seat.

The aircraft departed runway 11 centre and turned right to operate in the southern training circuit using runway 11 right (11R). They had completed three circuits and were turning onto the final approach to runway 11R, for a fourth touch and go, when the aerodrome controller (ADC) saw that the aircraft's landing gear was not extended. The ADC queried the pilots regarding the landing gear and then saw the landing gear extend as the aircraft continued the approach. Neither pilot acknowledged the ADC's radio transmission. The ADC then issued a clearance for a touch and go to runway 11R. The instructor acknowledged the transmission by reading back that clearance.

Witnesses reported that when the aircraft was almost over the threshold to runway 11R it commenced to diverge right while maintaining a low height. They reported that when the aircraft was abeam the mid length of the runway, it's nose lifted and the aircraft banked steeply to the right before impacting the ground in a near vertical nose-down attitude.

A fire ignited after the impact. The main cabin door, located on the right side, separated from the aircraft during the accident. The instructor vacated the aircraft through that opening about 30 seconds after the aircraft came to rest. The pilot was fatally injured. The instructor received severe burns and was treated in hospital for three and a half weeks before succumbing to those injuries.

The investigation found a number of anomalies in the engines, but these were considered to not have affected the circumstances of the occurrence. The witness descriptions of the aircraft during the go around and the flight profile immediately before impact suggests that it may have been operating in an asymmetric configuration during the go around. However, the investigation was unable to confirm the configuration of the aircraft immediately prior to the accident. Pilot incapacitation was unlikely to have been a factor in the accident.

It is likely that the instructor had reduced the right engine power to simulate the failure of that engine. The indications that both engines were delivering power at impact may reflect recovery actions initiated by the pilots at some stage during the go around. However, any such recovery was apparently too late to be effective. The position of the landing gear prior to impact was most likely retracted, but could not be established by either witness information or wreckage examination. The position of the wing flaps at impact could not be conclusively determined.

The investigation found that control of the aircraft was lost at a height from which recovery was not possible. The reason for the loss of control could not be conclusively determined.

Following a number of accidents in recent years, involving twin-engine aircraft that incurred a loss of some or all engine power, the ATSB implemented a research project (B2005/0085) into power loss related accidents involving twin-engine aircraft. That report was approved for public release 27 June 2005.

On 1 December 2003, the Minister for Transport and Regional Services issued an Instrument of Direction to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB). That instrument directed the ATSB to 'investigate the effectiveness of the fire fighting arrangements for Bankstown Airport as they affected transport safety at Bankstown Airport on 11 November 2003'. The report of that investigation was issued on 24 December 2004 ( BO/200305496) and is available from the ATSB website www.atsb.gov.au or from the Bureau on request.

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Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 472KB]
General details
Date: 11 November 2003   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1248 hours ESuT    
Location   (show map): Bankstown, Aero.    
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
Release date: 27 July 2005   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Fatal  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Piper Aircraft Corp  
Aircraft model PA-34  
Aircraft registration VH-CTT  
Serial number 34-7250261  
Type of operation Flying Training  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Departure point Bankstown, NSW  
Departure time 1228 hours ESuT  
Destination Bankstown, NSW  
Crew details
Role Class of licence Hours on type Hours total
Pilot-in-Command Commercial 100.0 1623
Unknown Private 6.0 293
  Crew Passenger Ground Total
Fatal: 2 0 0 2
Total: 2 0 0 2
Last update 13 May 2014