On 15 January 2014, the pilot of a Piper PA‑28 aircraft, registered VH‑HVX, was undergoing a Commercial Pilot Licence test flight with a testing officer on board. At about 1500 Eastern Daylight-savings Time, the aircraft landed at Orange Airport, New South Wales. The aircraft had encountered moderate turbulence during the flight from Bankstown and the pilot reported a slight overshoot on landing at Orange due to fluctuating wind conditions.

During the time on the ground, the pilot observed the wind varying from an easterly to a westerly direction and the speed fluctuating from 0 to about 15 kt. The temperature at Orange was about 33 ºC, and the aerodrome elevation was 3,115 ft. The pilot had calculated the density altitude at Orange to be about 5,725 ft.

At about 1530, the pilot observed the wind to be from 110º at about 10-15 kt and configured the aircraft for a short field take-off from runway 11, selecting two stages of flaps. During the take-off run, the pilot and testing officer observed the aircraft performing normally and the pilot rotated the aircraft at about 55-60 kt indicated airspeed (IAS). The pilot then established the aircraft in an attitude to achieve a best angle-of-climb speed of about 72 kt IAS. The pilot reported that the stall warning horn sounded momentarily during the take-off due to turbulence.

When at about 50 ft above ground level (AGL) and about 65-70 kt IAS, the testing officer reduced the engine power to idle and stated “simulated engine failure”. The pilot immediately lowered the nose of the aircraft in an attempt to increase the airspeed and selected the third stage of flaps. At about 10 ft AGL, the pilot reported the aircraft was sinking and flared the aircraft for landing. However, the aircraft continued to sink and landed heavily. The pilots reported that the stall warning did not sound during the descent and that a shift in the wind direction was the most likely cause of the accident.

This incident highlights the critical importance of considering local conditions such as wind, elevation and temperature, as well as the inherent risks of conducting simulated engine failure at low altitude.


Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin - Issue 28