Aviation safety investigations & reports

Collision with terrain, Piper PA-31-350 VH-OAO at Mt Hotham, Vic.

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


On 8 July 2005, the pilot was conducting a charter flight, with two passengers on board, in a Piper PA31-350 Navajo Chieftain. The flight was initially planned to proceed from Essendon Airport to Mount Hotham, Victoria. However, because of adverse weather, the pilot revised his destination to Wangaratta. While en route, he diverted the aircraft to his originally intended destination, Mount Hotham. The pilot subsequently reported to air traffic control that he was overhead Mount Hotham. He changed the flight category from visual flight rules to instrument flight rules and advised his intention to conduct an instrument approach to runway 29. At about 1725, the pilot told the Mount Hotham Airport Manager by radio that he was on final approach for runway 29 and asked him to switch on the runway lights. After doing so, the manager attempted to tell the pilot that the lights had been switched on, but received no response. Subsequent attempts by air traffic control and the crews of other aircraft to contact the pilot were also unsuccessful. Because of hazardous weather conditions over the following two days, the search for the aircraft was primarily conducted on foot and horseback. The aircraft was located on a tree covered ridge, partially covered by snow. It had flown into trees in a level attitude, slightly banked to the right. Initial impact with the ridge was at about 200 ft below the elevation of the Mount Hotham aerodrome. The Chieftain had broken into several large sections and an intense fire had consumed most of the cabin. The occupants were fatally injured.

The investigation determined that the aircraft systems had been operating normally. The weather conditions were ideal for a 'flat light' phenomenon that was likely to have denied the pilot adequate visual reference. The pilot may have experienced disorientation and loss of situational awareness. The aircraft was not equipped for flight in icing conditions, nor had the pilot complied with the requirements for flight under the instrument flight rules or in accord with the visual flight rules.

General details
Date: 08 July 2005   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1745 EST    
Location   (show map): Mount Hotham, (ALA)    
State: Victoria   Occurrence type: CFIT  
Release date: 24 August 2006   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Fatal  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Piper Aircraft Corp  
Aircraft model PA-31  
Aircraft registration VH-OAO  
Serial number 31-8252021  
Type of operation Charter  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Departure point Essendon, Vic.  
Departure time 1629 hours EST  
Destination Mount Hotham, Vic.  
Crew details
Role Class of licence Hours on type Hours total
Pilot-in-Command Commercial 1268.7 4770
  Crew Passenger Ground Total
Fatal: 1 2 0 3
Total: 1 2 0 3
Last update 16 February 2016