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Summary

Summary

At about 1452 Eastern Daylight-saving Time on 24 December 2008, a Cessna Aircraft Company 172L aircraft, registered VH-EKS, with a pilot and one passenger, departed Mudgee on a private visual flight rules (VFR) flight to a property near Glen Innes, New South Wales. About 15 minutes after departure, the pilot encountered increasing cloud and, after climbing to assess the weather ahead, decided to descend visually through the cloud in order to maintain visual meteorological conditions.

The pilot descended the aircraft into a valley that was enshrouded in cloud. After flying up the valley for a short time, the pilot decided to turn back. During the turn-back manoeuvre, the aircraft entered cloud. The pilot became disorientated and the aircraft collided with terrain.

The pilot and passenger were seriously injured and the aircraft was seriously damaged. Shortly after, the passenger succumbed to his injuries.

The pilot's decision not to obtain the relevant Bureau of Meteorology forecasts prevented a full understanding of the weather likely to affect the flight and what impact this might have on his flight planning, including alternate routes and fuel requirements. Similarly, the pilot's decision not to submit any form of formal flight notification, and to not replace the normally-carried portable Emergency Locator Transmitter, adversely affected the prompt commencement of a search and rescue following the accident.

While not contributory to the accident, the investigation identified an error in the flight planning requirements in the Visual Flight Guide (VFG) for VFR flights away from a departure aerodrome. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has advised that the VFG has been withdrawn for amendment.

The investigation also identified that the optional nature of the navigational component of the Aeroplane Flight Review (AFR) meant that a pilot's navigation skills could remain un-assessed for an extended period. While this did not contribute to the accident, CASA has advised that the optional nature of the navigational component will be amended to being a recommended element of the AFR, and that guidance will be provided on its conduct.

 
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