Aviation safety investigations & reports

Collision with terrain involving Cessna 206, VH-WAV, 156 km SSE of Croydon, Qld on 15 September 2013

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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What happened

At about 1200 on 15 September 2013, the pilot-owner of a Cessna 206, registered VH-WAV, landed on a public road to repair a truck at a work camp. At about 1516, during take-off from a different, curved road, the aircraft’s left wing struck a tree at a height of about 30 ft. The wingtip and aileron separated before the aircraft impacted terrain, fatally injuring the pilot and passenger. The aircraft was destroyed.

What the ATSB found

The distance available from where the pilot increased power for take-off was much shorter than the distance advised in the aircraft’s pilot operating handbook under the prevailing conditions.

There was no apparent reason for the pilot to attempt a take-off from that location when a more suitable location was nearby. It is most likely that the pilot misjudged the distance available, the prevailing conditions and their effect on the aircraft’s performance, or had a false recollection of the relative layout of the two roads and thought that there was more take-off room available beyond the curve. However, it is also possible that the pilot’s judgement of the available distance, or his decision-making capability, was affected by a serious medical condition and/or prescribed medications that had not been reported to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) until after the pilot’s previous medical certificate had expired.

In addition, the ATSB found that the pilot’s seat had broken from its mounts, probably as the result of heavy, unsecured cargo striking it during the accident sequence. This could have had a detrimental effect on the survivability of the accident.

Safety message

The accident highlights the importance of carefully considering all relevant factors that could affect the suitability of a particular landing and take-off area. These include: aircraft weight and engine power; wind direction, speed and gusts; ambient air pressure and temperature; surface slope, material, and condition; other physical characteristics of the area such as its length and width; and the height and location of surrounding obstacles.

Though no link with the accident was established, flying without a valid medical certificate, or omitting to report a diagnosed condition or treatment to a Designated Aviation Medical Examiner or to CASA, can lead to such an impairment being undetected or its effect underestimated.

Unrestrained cargo poses a significant risk to the survivability of aircraft occupants. Pilots should take care to ensure that all cargo is adequately restrained to prevent movement during flight and improve survivability in the event of an accident.

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Alternate: [Download  DOCX: 5.2MB]


Updated: 27 September 2013

The ATSB investigation team has completed the on-site phase of its investigation into the collision with terrain involving a Cessna 206 aircraft, registered VH‑WAV, about 156 km south-east of Croydon, Queensland on 15 September 2013. The investigation team examined the area used by the pilot for the take-off, the accident site and wreckage, and interviewed an eyewitness to the accident.

The site evidence and witness report indicated that, during take-off from an unsealed access road to a council work camp, the aircraft’s left wing struck a tree. The wingtip and aileron separated before the aircraft impacted terrain, fatally injuring the pilot and passenger. The aircraft was seriously damaged,1(Figure 1).

Figure 1: Aircraft wreckage


Source: ATSB

The investigation is continuing and will include consolidation of the site evidence, a review of witness reports, consideration as to the suitability of the access road for the take-off and examination of the aircraft’s records and pilot history.

A final investigation report is expected to be published by the end of February 2014.


1. The Australian Transport Safety Regulations 2003 definition of ‘serious damage’ includes the destruction of the transport vehicle.


The information contained in this web update is released in accordance with section 25 of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 and is derived from the initial investigation of the occurrence. Readers are cautioned that new evidence will become available as the investigation progresses that will enhance the ATSB's understanding of the accident as outlined in this web update. As such, no analysis or findings are included in this update.




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General details
Date: 15 September 2013   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1516 EST   Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 156 km SSE Croydon    
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
Release date: 14 May 2014   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Fatal  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model U206G  
Aircraft registration VH-WAV  
Serial number U20604058  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Last update 14 November 2018