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What happened
At 1157 on 19 July 2011, a PZL-Mielec M18A Turbine Dromader aircraft, registered VH-FOZ, impacted terrain on a cotton station about 23 km west-south-west of Dirranbandi, Queensland while conducting a spraying flight. The pilot was fatally injured and the aircraft was destroyed by impact forces.

What the ATSB found
The ATSB found that, for reasons that could not be determined with certainty, the aircraft departed from controlled flight during a turn at low altitude and the pilot was unable to recover before impacting the ground.

The ATSB also identified a significant safety issue affecting the safety of future spraying operations in turbine Dromader aircraft: the potential for the aircraft's centre of gravity to vary significantly depending on the weight in the aircraft's chemical/spray tank and exceed the forward and aft limits during a flight. This safety issue was unlikely to have contributed to the accident as the aircraft was probably within the approved weight and balance limits at the time of the accident.

Moreover, although also not found to have contributed to the accident, there was an increased risk to the flight from the aircraft's operation, at times, in excess of its published airspeed and angle of bank limitations.

What has been done as a result
During the investigation, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau worked with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and the Aerial Agricultural Association of Australia to address the risk to turbine Dromader aircraft of the potential for excessive movement of the aircraft's centre of gravity as the contents of the aircraft's chemical/spray tank are dumped or dispensed.

CASA and the owner/developer of the approval for operations at weights of up to 6,600 kg, which had effect during the flight, took action to improve operator and pilot understanding of the issue. In addition, the owner/developer indicated that the design would be reviewed to address any excessive centre of gravity variations.

Safety message
Although it was not contributory in this instance, the ATSB highlights the importance of pilots maintaining their aircraft's weight and balance within limits throughout a flight, and of understanding the implications of changing weight and balance. Similarly, the ATSB reaffirms the importance of being familiar with and adhering to aircraft operational limitations.

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Preliminary report released 25 August 2011

On 19 July 2011 a PZL Warszawa-Okecie M-18 Dromader, registered VH-FOZ, was conducting spraying operations on a cotton station about 22 km west-south-west of Dirranbandi, Queensland. The aircraft failed to return from a spraying flight and workers on the station subsequently located the aircraft's wreckage in a ploughed field at about 1445. The pilot, who was the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The aircraft was destroyed by the impact forces.

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Safety issue

AO-2011-082-SI-01 -  

Dromader weight and balance

The aircraft's centre of gravity varied significantly with hopper weight and could exceed both the forward and aft limits at different times during a flight.

Safety issue details
Issue number:AO-2011-082-SI-01
Who it affects:Operators of PZL Mielec M18 Dromader aircraft using STC SVA521
Status:Adequately addressed

 
General details
Date: 19 July 2011 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 1157 EST Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
Location   (show map):23 km WSW of Dirranbandi Occurrence type:Loss of control 
State: Queensland Occurrence class: Operational 
Release date: 08 June 2012 Occurrence category: Accident 
Report status: Final Highest injury level: Fatal 
 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: PZL Warszawa-Okecie 
Aircraft model: M18 
Aircraft registration: VH-FOZ 
Serial number: 1Z014-10 
Type of operation: Aerial Work 
Damage to aircraft: Destroyed 
 
 
 
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Last update 01 March 2016