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Analysis

Summary

ANALYSIS

The final minutes of the recorded Air Traffic Services radar data indicated that the pilot performed a series of turns in a constant descent that was consistent with a forced landing. Given the pilot's history of performing many practice forced landings, it is likely that immediately prior to the accident, the pilot was conducting a practice forced landing.

When radar contact was lost, the aircraft was already below the minimum altitude for a practiced forced landing and there was no indication that the pilot had decreased the rate of descent. That was confirmed by witnesses that indicated that the aircraft was well below 500 ft above ground level.

Based on the pilot's training records and interviews with flight instructors, it is probable that the pilot was fixated on the chosen landing area and descended below the minimum height for a go-around. During the latter stages of the approach recorded by the radar, the pilot performed a tight 360º turn. That may have been intentional to allow the aircraft to lose height and still be positioned for the selected landing area. During the turn, the aircraft lost approximately 25 kts, which reduced the margin above the aircraft's stall speed.

A person near the accident site reported seeing the aircraft at a very low altitude and flying quietly before hearing power applied. However, the atmospheric conditions around the time of the accident were conducive to the formation of serious carburettor ice at descent power and the engine may not have been capable of producing full power when it was applied. Because the person's attention returned to their duties, it was not known if the application of power that they reported was sustained for any length of time. The evidence in the wreckage indicated that there was little or no power applied at impact. The pilot may have removed power as part of the stall recovery procedure. The use of carburettor heat could not be determined and the formation of carburettor ice was a possibility.

The attitude at which the aircraft impacted the ground and the damage to the tail section indicated that the aircraft had stalled before it impacted the ground. The combination of the loss of airspeed during the turn and the pilot's documented difficulty with stall recognition and response, may have led to an inadvertent stall, either during the go-around or in the subsequent climb out. The height at which the aircraft stalled was not sufficient to permit a recovery. It was not possible to determine if carburettor icing had reduced the power available for the go-around and aggravated the situation.

Fatigue

Based on the pilot's activities and sleep patterns prior to the occurrence, it was apparent that the pilot probably obtained only 5 to 6 hours of interrupted sleep on the night before the accident. Even though this was consistent with his normal sleeping patterns, in all likelihood, the pilot may have started the day with a degree of fatigue as a result of insufficient quantity and quality of sleep the previous night. The pilot may have also been experiencing the effects of chronic fatigue given his recurring pattern of interrupted and relatively low quantity of sleep. Consequently, fatigue may have reduced the pilot's ability to fly the aircraft accurately and to develop and maintain awareness of, and make timely decisions in response to, a degraded aircraft state, such as a stall.

Pilot's training history

The pilot had required a significant amount of flying training to meet the General Flying Progress Test standard. The pilot's training was regular, but spread over a considerable period of time. The training records indicated that the pilot had difficulty in acquiring, maintaining and consolidating the skills required to safely operate a light aircraft. Many lessons were repeated to bring the pilot up to the required competency standard. Of particular note is that the pilot consistently demonstrated poor airspeed control during practice forced landings, indecision, a poor awareness of an impending stall, a lack of response to the stall warning horn, and incorrect stall recovery technique. These factors are consistent with the circumstances surrounding the accident.

 
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