What happened

On the morning of 29 April 2012, the owner-pilot of a Cessna 150 aircraft, registered VH-UWR was aerial stock mustering on a cattle station about 55 km north-east of Bourke, New South Wales. Some early patches of fog cleared such that the weather conditions were fine and calm.

After about 1.5 hours in the air, the pilot radioed stockmen on the ground to direct them to an area where cattle were not moving. The aircraft was observed circling over the area then in a steep descent followed by the sound of an impact. The aircraft was seriously damaged and the pilot sustained fatal injuries.

What the ATSB found

While manoeuvring at low level the pilot inadvertently allowed the aircraft to aerodynamically stall, resulting in a high rate of descent and collision with terrain. There was insufficient information about pilot control inputs to establish the factors that precipitated the stall.

The pilot did not hold a valid medical certificate and had not completed a flight review for a number of years, increasing the risks of operating an aircraft, especially during aerial stock mustering.

Safety message

Pilot proficiency can decline without regular practice of non-routine procedures under the supervision of instructors or approved training/check pilots. As such, pilots should take every opportunity to refresh their knowledge and skills, at a minimum during a flight review every two years.