What happened

On 17 December 2012, a Cessna 182A aircraft registered VH-SGB, impacted with electrical powerlines that ran alongside a parachute drop zone at Burrum River, Queensland. The pilot was planning to attend a Christmas function at the drop zone and was flying to an airstrip located about 1.5 km to the north. After contacting the powerlines, the aircraft was seen to climb and continue to fly for approximately 500 m before the right wing separated from the aircraft. The aircraft subsequently impacted the ground and the pilot was fatally injured.

What the ATSB found

The powerlines that the aircraft impacted were at a height of approximately 9 m (30 ft) above ground level (AGL) and ran perpendicular to the aircraft’s flight path. The relevant cable marking standards did not require the powerlines to be marked. Weather conditions were fine, and there was no emergency broadcast from the pilot prior to the impact with the powerlines. No pre-existing defects with the aircraft could be identified.

No operational reason for the pilot to fly at a height below 500 ft AGL could be identified by the investigation.

Safety message

A minimum height of 500 ft AGL for flight over non-populated areas is promulgated for very long standing safety reasons. Pilots who choose to fly below this height without an operational reason to do so are exposing themselves, and any passengers that may be on board, to an increased risk of striking powerlines, many of which are difficult to see from the cockpit of an aircraft in flight. The circumstances of this accident highlight that risk.