Aviation safety investigations & reports

Loss of control - 9 km south-east Raglan, QLD 31 October 2006,VH-ZGZ, Piper PA-31-350

Investigation number:
AO-2006-001
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Summary

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On 31 October 2006, a Piper Aircraft Corporation PA-31-350 Chieftain aircraft, registered VH-ZGZ, was being operated on a private category instrument flight rules (IFR) flight from Emerald to Gladstone, Qld. On board the aircraft were the pilot in command and two passengers. After departing Emerald at 1807 Eastern Standard Time, the flight proceeded apparently normally until the aircraft disappeared from radar while passing about 4,500 ft on descent into Gladstone. It was subsequently determined that the aircraft had crashed 9 km SE of Raglan, approximately 39 km west of Gladstone. The aircraft occupants received fatal injuries.

Conditions in the area of the accident were dark with some rain. Thunderstorms had been forecast but there was no thunderstorm or lightning activity in the area where radar contact was lost.

Recorded radar and voice transmission information indicated that the aircraft was performing normally before it suddenly diverged left from a steady descending flight path and entered a spiral dive.

On-site examination confirmed that the aircraft impacted the ground at high speed in a steep, left spiral descent. The aircraft structure was complete at impact. It was established that at impact, both engines were operating at between 2,200 and 2,400 RPM and both propellers were in the normal operating pitch range. There was evidence that the gyroscopic instruments were functioning. The destruction to the wreckage precluded examination of the electrical and fuel systems, the flight controls, and the autopilot.

A series of maintenance issues involving the aircraft's engines occurred in the period before the accident. However, there was evidence that these had been resolved before the accident flight.

The pilot's experience on the aircraft type was limited, as was his night and instrument flight experience. The dark and very likely cloudy conditions that existed in the area where the aircraft suddenly diverged from its flight path meant that recovery to normal flight could only have been achieved by sole reference to the aircraft's flight instruments. The difficulty associated with such a task when the aircraft was in a steep descent was likely to have been significant.

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Interim Factual report released 25 May 2007

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On 31 October 2006 at 1955 Eastern Standard Time, PA31-350 aircraft, registered VH-ZGZ, was on descent to Gladstone Airport, Qld when its radar track disappeared from the air situation display in the Brisbane Air Traffic Control Centre. Subsequently, the aircraft was found to have impacted terrain approximately 9 km south-east of Raglan, Qld. The pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The aircraft was destroyed by impact forces and post-impact fire.

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Preliminary report released 31 October 2006

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On 31 October 2006 at 1955 Eastern Standard Time, PA31-350 aircraft, registered VH-ZGZ, was on descent to Gladstone Airport, Qld when its radar track disappeared from the air situation display in the Brisbane Air Traffic Control Centre. Subsequently, the aircraft was found to have impacted terrain approximately 9 km south-east of Raglan, Qld. The pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The aircraft was destroyed by impact forces and post-impact fire.

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General details
Date: 31 October 2006   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1955 EST   Investigation level: Complex - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Raglan    
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Loss of control  
Release date: 27 January 2009   Occurrence class: Operational  
Report status: Final   Occurrence category: Accident  
  Highest injury level: Fatal  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Piper Aircraft Corp  
Aircraft model PA-31  
Aircraft registration VH-ZGZ  
Serial number 31-7752006  
Type of operation Private  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Departure point Emerald QLD  
Departure time 1807  
Destination Gladstone QLD  
 
Injuries
  Crew Passenger Ground Total
Fatal: 1 2 0 3
Total: 1 2 0 3
Last update 14 November 2018