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Summary

Summary

On 9 April 2008, at 2325 Eastern Standard Time, a Fairchild Industries Inc. SA227-AC (Metro III) aircraft, registered VH-OZA, departed Sydney Airport, New South Wales on a freight charter flight to Brisbane, Queensland with one pilot on board. The aircraft was subsequently observed on radar to be turning right, contrary to air traffic control instructions to turn left to an easterly heading. The pilot reported that he had a 'slight technical fault' and no other transmissions were heard from the pilot.

Recorded radar data showed the aircraft turning right and then left, followed by a descent and climb, a second right turn and a second descent before radar returns were lost when the aircraft was at an altitude of 3,740 ft above mean sea level and descending at over 10,000 ft/min. Air traffic control initiated search actions and search vessels later recovered a small amount of aircraft wreckage floating in the ocean, south of the last recorded radar position. The pilot was presumed to be fatally injured and the aircraft was destroyed.

Both of the aircraft's on-board flight recorders were subsequently recovered from the ocean floor. They contained data from a number of previous flights, but not for the accident flight. There was no evidence of a midair breakup of the aircraft.

The investigation determined that it was highly likely that the pilot took off without alternating current electrical power supplied to the aircraft's primary flight instruments, including the pilot's artificial horizon and both flight recorders. It is most likely that the lack of a primary attitude reference during the night takeoff led to pilot spatial disorientation and subsequent loss of control of the aircraft.

A significant safety issue was identified in respect of the aircraft operator's training and checking of its pilots. As a result of audits conducted following the accident, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority imposed a number of conditions on the operator's air operator's certificate that were reportedly actioned by the operator.

 
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