Aviation safety investigations & reports

Collision with terrain - Cessna 310R, VH-XGX, near Bathurst Island Aerodrome, NT, 5 February 2011

Investigation number:
AO-2011-017
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Safety summary

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What happened

On 5 February 2011, the pilot of a Cessna Aircraft Company 310R aircraft, registered VH-XGX, was conducting a return flight to Darwin, Northern Territory, following a charter flight to Bathurst Island. The pilot departed from Bathurst Island Aerodrome at approximately 2140 Central Standard Time and the aircraft collided with terrain shortly thereafter - approximately 1 km from the upwind end of the departure runway. The pilot, the sole occupant of the aircraft, sustained fatal injuries and the aircraft was destroyed by the impact forces and a post-impact fire.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB did not identify any technical deficiencies within the aircraft that may have contributed to the impact with terrain. The location of the wreckage, together with the dark night conditions and the relatively light load of the aircraft suggested that it was likely that the pilot was influenced by the effects of somatogravic illusion following takeoff. The somatogravic illusion is a powerful human physiological illusion that produces an upward-pitching sensation under conditions of acceleration accompanied by limited visual or other references.

What has been done as a result

Following the accident, the subcontracted operator (the pilot's employer) advised of increased night operational checks of new pilots and low/medium time pilots operating from Darwin. These increased checks were implemented in November 2011.

Safety message

The somatogravic illusion can affect any pilot, and the ATSB highlights the importance of pilots being aware of the conditions under which the illusion may occur and the importance of understanding the ways in which they can manage the associated hazard. This includes strict vigilance in the use of the attitude indicator (artificial horizon) as the primary source of aircraft pitch angle information, and correct instrument scanning techniques to verify the attitude and performance of the aircraft.

Websites of the ATSB, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the US Federal Aviation Administration provide a number of sources of information on spatial disorientation and illusions.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 2.95MB]
 
 
Alternate: [Download  DOC: 8.29MB]
 

Photos

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Preliminary

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Preliminary report released on 30 March 2011

On 5 February 2011, the pilot of a Cessna 310R aircraft, registered VH-XGX, was conducting a return flight to Darwin, Northern Territory, following a charter flight to Bathurst Island, Northern Territory.

The pilot departed from Bathurst Island Aerodrome at approximately 2140 Central Standard Time and the aircraft collided with terrain shortly thereafter - approximately 1 km from the upwind end of the departure runway.

The pilot, the sole occupant of the aircraft, sustained fatal injuries and the aircraft was destroyed by the impact forces and a post-impact fire.

Download Preliminary Report
[Download  PDF: 1.06MB]
 
 
Alternate: [Download  DOC: 648KB]
 
General details
Date: 05 February 2011   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 2145 CST    
Location   (show map): near Bathurst Island Aerodrome   Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation  
State: Northern Territory   Occurrence type: CFIT  
Release date: 14 June 2012   Occurrence class: Operational  
Report status: Final   Occurrence category: Accident  
  Highest injury level: Fatal  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model 310  
Aircraft registration VH-XGX  
Serial number 310R0058  
Type of operation Charter  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Bathurst Island, NT  
Destination Darwin Airport, NT  
Last update 14 November 2018