Preliminary report released 20 September 2011
On 15 August 2011, a Piper Aircraft Inc. PA‑28‑180 aircraft, registered VH-POJ, was conducting a private flight between Essendon Airport, Victoria and Nhill Aerodrome, Victoria under the visual flight rules (VFR). On board were the pilot and two passengers. The purpose of the flight was to transport one of the passengers, who had been in Melbourne, Victoria for non-emergency medical reasons, back to Nhill.
VH-POJ departed Essendon at 1600 and the pilot made an unplanned landing at Bendigo, Victoria at 1649. The aircraft departed Bendigo for Nhill at 1711.
The weather in the area around the accident was reported by other pilots not to have been suitable for VFR flight in the late afternoon.
Witnesses in, and to the south west of, Warracknabeal, Victoria reported hearing and/or seeing a low-flying light aircraft from approximately 1800 onwards. At approximately 1820, a loud bang was heard.
The aircraft's emergency locator transmitter did not activate. Witnesses raised the alarm immediately, but the crash site was not found until two hours after the accident occurred; the police and emergency services arrived at the scene a further thirty minutes after that.
Although classified as a private operation, the flight had been organised as an 'Angel Flight' by the charity, Angel Flight™ Australia.
The draft investigation report was finalised and released to directly involved parties (DIPs) on 19 September 2013 for comment by 17 October. Feedback from those parties on the factual accuracy of the draft report will be considered for inclusion in the final report, which is anticipated to be released to the public in early December 2013.