What happened

On 1 May 2012, the pilot of a Piper PA 25-235/A9 (Pawnee) aircraft, registered VH-GWS, was conducting agricultural operations from a local airstrip near Hallston, Victoria. Shortly after takeoff, the aircraft collided with terrain near the base of a gully and was destroyed by a post-impact fire. The pilot was fatally injured.

What the ATSB found

The aircraft likely sustained a partial power loss shortly after takeoff, resulting in an inability to continue climbing or maintain altitude. Damage sustained during the accident and post-impact fire prevented an identification of the specific reasons for the power loss. The ATSB also found that operation of the aircraft over hilly terrain probably limited the pilot’s emergency landing options and increased the severity of the terrain impact following engine power loss.

What's been done as a result

The investigation did not identify any organisational or systemic issues that might adversely affect the future of aviation safety.

Safety message

Some of the circumstances surrounding this accident are highlighted in the ATSB research report AR-2010-055: Managing partial power loss after takeoff in a single-engine aircraft. Pilots and aircraft operators are encouraged to consider the topics covered in that report, which may assist in reducing the risks associated with partial or complete power loss after takeoff. In addition, pilots are reminded that the timely dumping of any aircraft payload where possible can assist in improving aircraft performance and may provide additional options for a safe outcome.