On 25 January 2014, at about 1300 Eastern Daylight-savings Time, a Piper PA-28-180 aircraft, registered VH-PXB (PXB), taxied at Forbes aerodrome, New South Wales, for a private local flight with the pilot and one passenger on board.

The passenger of PXB reported that, about 10 minutes after take-off, the pilot appeared to suffer a seizure and lost consciousness. The passenger took control of the aircraft, turned the aircraft back towards Forbes aerodrome and used the radio to call for help.

The pilot of a Pawnee was back-tracking at Forbes, when he heard the passenger of PXB call for help on the CTAF.  He ascertained that the passenger was able to control the aircraft, but had not landed an aircraft previously. He assisted the passenger to conduct orbits to the north of the aerodrome and maintain about 2,000 ft AMSL.

After orbiting for about 22 minutes, the passenger advised that the pilot was conscious and had taken control of the aircraft to return to land. The pilot of the Pawnee became concerned as he observed PXB descending and heading south-west, away from the aerodrome. He communicated with the pilot and with the assistance of the passenger, PXB turned towards the aerodrome. A few minutes later, PXB landed just short of the threshold of runway 27, bounced once and veered off the runway during the landing roll.

The pilot of PXB did not recall any of the flight after the initial climb, until when the aircraft was lined up for a landing on runway 27. He reported feeling unwell prior to the flight and his doctor advised that dehydration was the most likely cause of his loss of consciousness.

This incident highlights the importance of pilots assessing their fitness to fly prior to every flight.


Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin - Issue 28