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Summary

Summary

On 24 September 2008, at about 1606 Eastern Standard Time, a Liberty Aerospace Inc. XL2 aircraft, registered VH-CZX, descended through trees and collided with terrain 2 km south of Luddenham, New South Wales. The sole occupant, a student pilot, was fatally injured and the aircraft sustained serious damage.

Air traffic control radar data recordings indicated that the aircraft departed straight and level flight from about 3,000 ft above ground level and descended very steeply at a high rate of descent to below the radar's minimum detection height. Witness observations, aircraft damage and wreckage distribution were consistent with a steep, low-speed collision with terrain.

The investigation was unable to determine the reasons for the departure from straight and level flight or establish the aircraft's movements in the period of time between the loss of radar information and the witnesses' visual observations.

No evidence of any mechanical fault that could have contributed to the accident was found. The weather was benign. A post-mortem examination of the pilot did not identify any pre-existing medical conditions that may have contributed to the accident.

Traces of a cannabis metabolite were present in the pilot's blood, indicating previous use of, or exposure to cannabis. There was no evidence that the pilot was impaired by cannabis at the time of the accident; however, there is extensive evidence that the use of cannabis increases the risk of the impairment of pilot performance.

The investigation did not identify any organisational or systemic issues that might adversely affect the future safety of aviation operations. However, following the accident, the flying school proactively modified its training syllabus to include additional instructional flights on the aircraft type prior to authorising extended solo flights.

 
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