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Updated 23 July 2013

The draft investigation report is being finalised and is anticipated for release to directly involved parties (DIPs) for comment mid-August 2013. Feedback from those parties on the factual accuracy of the draft report over the 28-day DIP period will be considered for inclusion in the final report, which is planned to be released to the public during October 2013.



Update 31 August 2012

At about 2007 Western Standard Time on 11 July 2012, a Piper Aircraft Corp. PA‑34‑200 Seneca (Piper Seneca), registered VH-LCK, took off from runway 28 at Broome Airport, Western Australia. The pilot was operating the aircraft under the instrument flight rules and was on the outbound leg of a regular freight-carrying flight between Broome and Port Hedland. On board the aircraft were a small number of items of general freight.

A number of witnesses saw or heard the aircraft take off. A company employee, who was familiar with the aircraft and was about 900 m south-east of the runway 28 threshold, heard the engines during the initial take-off roll and thought they sounded normal. Several witnesses reported that, during the period after the takeoff, they heard unusual noises from the engines. Other witnesses that were closer to the accident site reported hearing the engines cut out and that they watched as the aircraft descended steeply towards the ground.

Emergency services commenced a search for the missing aircraft and pilot and the wreckage was found during the latter part of the evening in sand dunes, about 880 m beyond the upwind end of runway 28 and close to the extended runway centreline. The pilot sustained fatal injuries and the aircraft, although substantially intact, was destroyed by impact forces (Figure 1). There was no post-impact fire.

Figure 1: Aircraft wreckage


Damage to the wreckage was consistent with the aircraft descending steeply into terrain at relatively low forward speed and a high rate of descent. There was no evidence of in-flight structural failure. The fuel tanks ruptured on impact, the cockpit and cabin were severely disrupted and the landing gear was retracted.

The aircraft's engines and propellers were recovered from the accident site for technical examination, together with the fuel selector valves and other components from the aircraft's fuel system, various cockpit gauges/instruments and a global positioning system (GPS) receiver.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau technical specialists examined the GPS receiver. That examination found that, although some of the memory chips had dislodged, track data was retained in the receiver's non-volatile memory. That data included recent flights made by the pilot in the aircraft, including the accident flight. The GPS data for the accident flight is depicted at Figure 2.

Figure 2: Accident flight data recovered from GPS receiver1

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Image © 2012 DigitalGlobe
Image © 2012 TerraMetrics
Image © 2012 GeoEye

Port Hedland is 465 km (251 NM) south-west of Broome. Consistent with the forecast winds that evening, the flight was planned by the pilot to take 2 hours. The aerodrome forecasts for Port Hedland and Broome indicated the possibility of reduced visibility in fog later in the evening. However, light winds, clear skies and fine weather conditions existed for the aircraft's departure. Last light in Broome was 1753 and the moon had set earlier during the day.

Refuelling records indicated the addition of 80 L of aviation gasoline to the aircraft's fuel tanks before departure. The pilot's flight plan indicated there was 295 L of fuel on board the aircraft departing Broome and that it was sufficient for the flight. There were no reports of problems with other aircraft that refuelled at Broome that day.

The aircraft's take-off weight was about 1,590 kg, which was below the aircraft's maximum take-off weight of 1,909 kg. The freight weighed about 17 kg and the manifest did not include any dangerous goods.

The pilot's commercial pilot licence was issued in September 2010 and he had been employed by the operator since March 2011. The pilot held a multi-engine command instrument rating. Operator records indicated the pilot had 922 hours total aeronautical experience, with 423 hours logged on multi-engine aircraft and 99.5 hours flown on the Piper Seneca. Those records also showed that the pilot had accrued about 210 hours night flying, mostly in multi-engine aircraft. The pilot held a Class 1 Medical Certificate and was reported to have been well rested and fit prior to flight.

The investigation is continuing and will include the:

  • examination of recovered components
  • examination of the aircraft's maintenance records
  • analysis of aircraft performance during the flight
  • review of other operational factors and the recorded data.

The investigation is continuing.

1 The data is represented by a series of individual GPS-recorded track points that have been joined together using a series of straight lines.

The information contained in this web update is released in accordance with section 25 of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 and is derived from the initial investigation of the occurrence. Readers are cautioned that new evidence will become available as the investigation progresses that will enhance the ATSB's understanding of the accident as outlined in this web update. As such, no analysis or findings are included in this update.




Update 13 July 2012

The ATSB team, of three investigators from Perth, arrived in Broome Thursday afternoon. The team met local police and completed a preliminary visit to the accident site. Late yesterday afternoon the ATSB Investigator in Charge held an onsite media briefing.
During the next few days, the team will be continuing their activities at the accident site. The aircraft wreckage is contained in a relatively small area and although badly damaged, is substantially intact. The team will be examining the aircraft wreckage and the ground in the vicinity of the accident site to establish the aircraft's likely flight path immediately before the collision with terrain. Other site activities will include an examination of the aircraft's engines, flight controls, fuel system, cockpit controls and instruments. The team may retain some items for more detailed examination. Other planned activities include witness interviews and liaison with the aircraft operator.
The investigators are likely to be working in Broome until early next week.
The investigation is continuing.


12 July 2012

Late Wednesday evening the Australian Maritime Safety Authority advised the ATSB that a Piper Seneca aircraft was reported missing shortly after taking off from Broome International Airport, Western Australia (WA).

The ATSB prepared a team of three investigators to travel to Broome on Thursday morning. The ATSB investigation team will arrive on site by late afternoon (AEST) and will be cooperating with the WA Police and Coronial staff. Initial team actions will consist of examining and recording the aircraft wreckage, interviewing witnesses and reviewing aircraft maintenance documents.

Any witnesses are asked to contact the ATSB on 1800 020 616.

The investigation is continuing.


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General details

Date: 11 Jul 2012 Investigation status: Active 
Time: 2008 Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
Location   (show map):near Broome Occurrence type:Collision with terrain 
State: WA Occurrence class: Operational 
Release date: 31 Aug 2012 Occurrence category: Accident 
Report status: Pending Highest injury level: Fatal 
Expected completion: Apr 2014  

Aircraft details

Aircraft manufacturer: Piper Aircraft Corp 
Aircraft model: PA-34 
Aircraft registration: VH-LCK 
Serial number: 34-7350236 
Type of operation: Charter 
Damage to aircraft: Destroyed 
Departure point:Broome International Airport, WA
Destination:Port Hedland, WA
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Last update 25 March 2014