Report released 23 December 2013

On 24 October 2013, at about 0940 Eastern Daylight-saving Time, the pilot of a PZL Mielec M18A Dromader, registered VH-TZJ, took off from Nowra Airport to conduct a firebombing mission in the Budawang National Park about 37 km west of Ulladulla, New South Wales. At about 1004, while the aircraft was approaching the target point, the left wing separated. The aircraft immediately rolled left and descended, impacting terrain. The aircraft was destroyed by impact forces and the pilot was fatally injured.

Preliminary examination indicated that the left outboard wing lower attachment lug had fractured through an area of pre-existing fatigue cracking in the lug lower ligament.

This Interim Report was released in order to highlight a safety issue that had been identified after the release of the Preliminary Report on 2 December 2013. The safety issue is that operators of some Australian M18 Dromaders,1 particularly those fitted with turbine engines and enlarged hoppers and those operating under Australian supplemental type certificate (STC) SVA521, have probably conducted flights at weights for which airframe life factoring was required but not applied. The report includes a Safety Advisory Notice to M18 operators about this safety issue.

The first sections of this report are the same as the Preliminary Report released on 2 December 2013. Additional information is contained in the Context (Operation of the M18 Dromader at take‑off weights above 4,200 kg), Safety analysis, and Safety action sections regarding the safety issue.

[1]     There are three main aircraft variants, the M18, M18A, and M18B, in addition to two-seat trainer versions. Throughout this report, ‘M18’ is used generically to refer to any of the three main variants except where otherwise stated.