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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.

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Download Preliminary Report
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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]
 
 
 
 
General details
Date: 05 February 2011 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 2145 CST Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
Location   (show map):near Bathurst Island Aerodrome Occurrence type:CFIT 
State: Northern Territory Occurrence class: Operational 
Release date: 14 June 2012 Occurrence category: Accident 
Report status: Final Highest injury level: Fatal 
 
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
 
 
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Last update 01 March 2016