On 11 October 2013, the student pilot of a G-115C2 Grob aircraft, registered VH-ZIV, departed the Merredin aeroplane landing area (ALA) on his first solo flight to the designated training area located near Lake Brown, Western Australia.
After about 1.4 hours the student elected to return to Merredin, tracking via Burracoppin Township. The student was unable to sight Merredin (ALA) and broadcast on the universal communications (UNICOM) frequency indicating that he was unsure of his position. The UNICOM operator gave him directions to locate Merredin.
The student located Merredin and joined the circuit for runway 28. When on short final he determined that he was too high and initiated a go-around. The student commenced a second circuit to runway 28. When on short final, the student reported there was a crosswind with slight windshear, and the glare from the sun was making it increasingly difficult to see the runway. The aircraft touched down heavily and bounced. The student reported that the sun glare made it very difficult to judge the height of the aircraft and he believed that the aircraft had not bounced very high. At about 1700 Western Standard Time the aircraft touched down again on the nose landing gear, which subsequently collapsed. The aircraft slid along the runway and came to a stop. The student pilot was uninjured and the aircraft sustained substantial damage.
The aircraft operator conducted an internal investigation and determined the student’s last meal was at 0600, which consisted of a sandwich and the operator’s flight risk assessment tool (FRAT) for the accident flight was incomplete. If all values for the flight had been entered, the total risk value for the flight would have been in the red area stating ‘No dispatch’.
The student indicated he had about 6 hours sleep the night before the accident as he was finishing his ground school homework and preparing for the next day.
This accident highlights the importance of pilots also assessing their own wellbeing, to determine if they are physically and mentally prepared, and if the operating conditions are suitable for the conduct of the flight. The effect of sun-glare when relying on visual cues is an important consideration for all pilots.