What happened

On 27 June 2013, a Cirrus SR22 aircraft, registered VH-CKS, collided with a tree that was adjacent to the private airstrip at Boxwood, Victoria. The pilot of the aircraft was attempting to land on the unlit airstrip after last light. As a result of the collision, the pilot lost control and the aircraft continued for a short distance before impacting terrain inverted. The pilot was fatally injured and the aircraft destroyed 

What the ATSB found 

The pilot was appropriately licensed to operate the visual flight rules category aircraft at night and had passed a number of airports in the vicinity, all of which were appropriate for a night landing. However, consistent with a degree of self-imposed pressure to get home after a series of business commitments and prior to a1-month period away from home, the pilot bypassed these airports and continued to their property airstrip. This airstrip did not meet the physical, lighting and obstacle clearance requirements for night operations. 

The final approach to land was made after last light, with a family member positioned in a motor vehicle ‘at the end of the strip’. The vehicle’s headlights were intended to illuminate the upwind end of the strip, facing the oncoming aircraft. However, this lighting was inadequate and provided insufficient guidance for the approach and landing. This increased the risk of a collision with terrain. 

Safety message 

Night landings at inadequately lit airstrips are inherently dangerous and increase the risk of a collision with terrain. The requirements for the conduct of operations at night, including lighting, pilot qualifications, aircraft equipment and systems and aerodrome equipment are intended to reduce this risk. 

It is likely that, had these risk controls been given effect, this accident would not have happened.