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Analysis

Summary

Examination of the aircraft wreckage and accident site indicated that the aircraft impacted terrain at a steep angle and at high speed. In addition, the investigation concluded that the engine was producing power at the time of the accident.

The recorded Air Traffic Services (ATS) radar data indicated that the autopilot was engaged prior to the aircraft entering a steep left descending turn. The abruptness of the turn and the high rate of descent indicated that the autopilot was no longer controlling the aircraft. The autopilot could be disconnected by either pressing the electric trim switch or manually overriding the controls. The pilot was familiar with the route being flown and would be unlikely to have deliberately diverted from the intended flightpath. There was no significant weather in the area at the time of the accident, so the pilot would not have had to alter his heading to maintain visual flight.

If the pilot had deliberately disconnected the autopilot and manoeuvred the aircraft, the resultant flight path would probably not have been as abrupt as the recorded ATS radar data indicated. Therefore, the autopilot was probably disconnected by the pilot making an unintentional control input.

The investigation was unable to determine the reason for the sudden control input, but the circumstances are consistent with pilot incapacitation. The pilot was the only occupant of the aircraft who could manipulate the controls with the autopilot disconnected. The passenger, due to the usual seating arrangements, would have been unable to render assistance to the pilot, or assumed control of the aircraft, prior to the accident, if the pilot had become incapacitated.

 
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