On 6 September 2013, at about 1220 Eastern Standard Time, a Piper PA-28R-200 aircraft, registered VH-MMU, was completing a private flight from White Cliffs, New South Wales, to Birdsville, Queensland. On board the aircraft were the pilot and a passenger.

As it was during the annual Birdsville horse race meeting, the pilot joined the circuit at Birdsville in accordance with the promulgated Airservices Australia Aeronautical Information Publication Supplement (AIP SUP).

The wind was fluctuating during the aircraft’s arrival, at times indicating 010 ° T at 10 kt, but close to landing it was 040 ° T at 10-15 kt. As there were restrictions on the use of runway 03, the pilot elected to fit in with traffic and use runway 32.

The approach to runway 32 placed the aircraft over raised ground and a high fence, where much of the crowd were situated. To remain at a safe altitude above the crowd, the passenger, a more experienced pilot, suggested that the pilot keep the aircraft at least 50 ft above the runway threshold, and flare soon after.

The pilot attempted to comply with this suggestion and prepared for the landing flare, but the passenger advised him that they were too high, and not to reduce the engine power until the aircraft was in a safer landing configuration. The pilot lowered the aircraft’s nose slightly and initiated the flare. The aircraft landed firmly on the main landing gear, then bounced once or twice.

Despite the pilot’s efforts, the aircraft veered to left of the runway and the left wheel subsequently struck a graded mound. The aircraft stopped abruptly. The pilot and his passenger sustained minor injuries and the aircraft was substantially damaged.

It is important to be aware that the presence of others may influence your decision-making process. Their apparent ability does not mean that others can achieve the same outcome. To be competent, pilots must know, and fly within, their own personal limitations on that particular occasion.

Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin - Issue 24