What happened

On 29 October 2012, a Cessna 172N, registered VH-TKI (TKI), was being operated on a visual flight rules (VFR) flight from Coldstream to a private aircraft landing area (ALA) at Bagshot, Victoria, with a pilot and two passengers on board.

A witness at the airfield stated that as TKI approached short final on the approach, the aircraft contacted a powerline located at the southern end of the airfield. The powerline significantly reduced the aircraft’s forward speed, causing it to rotate about its nose and impact the airstrip in an almost inverted attitude. A post-impact, fuel-fed fire initiated at the wing roots almost immediately and witnesses assisted the aircraft occupants from the aircraft. However, the front-seat passenger was fatally injured, the pilot was seriously injured and the rear seat passenger sustained minor injuries.

What the ATSB found

Examination of the aircraft showed that its nose landing gear contacted the powerline. The powerline was located 8 m above ground level and about 140 m south of the displaced threshold of the landing strip.

The ATSB found that the pilot was aware of the powerline, but that his recollection was that they were closer to the tree line in the undershoot to the landing strip. In addition, a lack of adequate displaced threshold markings and the mown undershoot area led him to believe that the entire strip was useable for landing. This combined with the inherent difficulty of visually detecting wires and the distraction of another recently-landed aircraft on the airstrip to reduce the likelihood of the pilot detecting the wire.

No high visibility devices were attached to the powerlines, nor were they required to be under the current Australian Standards.

What's been done as a result

In response to this accident, the owner of the ALA has made significant changes to the runway markings, landing permission procedures affecting operations at the ALA and the available safety and firefighting equipment. In addition, markers have been erected near the powerline.

Safety message

Aeroplane landing area owners can help manage the risk of collisions with obstacles by assessing their airstrips against the guidance in Civil Aviation Advisory Publication (CAAP) 92-1(1) Guidelines for Aeroplane Landing Areas. Such risk assessments should explicitly consider the needs of first time users of the ALA.

Operational risk can also be reduced by pilots ensuring sufficient time to make appropriate decisions including, if in doubt, an early decision to go around. Pilots should also ensure that everyone in their aircraft is wearing seatbelts correctly, affording the best chance of survival in case of an accident.