On 24 July 2013, the pilot of a Cessna 404 aircraft, registered VH-HVR, was preparing for a charter flight from Darwin to the Pigeon Hole aeroplane landing area (ALA), Northern Territory.

The pilot used the operator’s electronic flight planning system to generate the flight plan, which also provided coordinates for the ALA and stated that the runway direction was 18/36. The coordinates for the ALA had been previously entered into the GPS, which was to be used throughout the flight for navigation assistance.

When at 5 NM, on final approach to Pigeon Hole, the pilot noticed that the runway surface appeared overgrown with vegetation. The pilot configured the aircraft for landing. At about 300 ft above ground level, the pilot noted that there were no runway strip markers or windsock. The pilot then realised that the airstrip was closed, but due to the aircraft’s altitude, elected to continue the landing. During the landing, the aircraft struck vegetation, but the pilot did not believe the aircraft had collided with anything.

After landing, the pilot assessed the situation and elected to take off. During the take-off, the pilot confirmed that the engines were operating normally and after becoming airborne, observed the correct ALA about 2 km south-west of the Pigeon Hole Township.

The aircraft landed there without further incident. Minor damage had been sustained to the leading edge of the right wing and propeller.

This incident highlights the importance of reviewing all available information appropriate to the intended operation, including the condition and suitability of the selected landing area/s, and ensuring that operational documents are current. It also demonstrates the benefits of overflying an airstrip to assist with determining the suitability of the landing area and the need to be go-around prepared and go-around minded.

Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin - Issue 24