Aviation safety investigations & reports

Terrain collision - Cessna 172N, VH-SMY, 80 km west Geraldton Airport, WA, 25 March 2011

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 25 March 2011, a Cessna 172 aircraft, registered VH-SMY, departed Geraldton on a charter passenger flight to East Wallabi Island (in the Abrolhos Islands group), Western Australia.

While on final approach to the Island, the nose of the aircraft was positioned at a 45° angle to the runway to remain aligned with the centreline due to gusty winds. The wind conditions appeared to be from an east to south-easterly direction. When at about 500 ft the pilot elected to overfly the runway.

A second approach was commenced, but the wind was again too strong for a landing with a go-around conducted. Despite full power being applied the engine did not perform as expected during the climb for another circuit.

During downwind, the pilot noted that the windsock was moving considerably. On final, the aircraft was again at a 45° angle and experiencing wind buffet.

During the landing flare, the aircraft floated, before touching down about half way along the runway. Determining the aircraft could not be stopped by the runway end, the pilot elected to go-around. He moved the throttle full forward, but the engine did not deliver full power. The aircraft momentarily became airborne before contacting a sand dune and coming to rest upright in the water.

The pilot reported that, due to the recent commencement of his employment with the operator, he wanted to complete the flight.

This accident highlights the need for pilots to be aware that self-imposed undue pressure, can come about for a variety of reasons (time or task-oriented). It is important to understand one's personal limitations, especially when flying in or around adverse weather conditions.

Download Final Report - Bulletin
[Download  PDF: 5.43MB]
General details
Date: 25 March 2011   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0840 WST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Geraldton Airport, west 80 km    
State: Western Australia   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
Release date: 12 December 2011   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model 172  
Aircraft registration VH-SMY  
Serial number 172 70657  
Type of operation Charter  
Departure point Geraldton, WA  
Destination Big Pigeon Island, WA  
Last update 14 November 2018