Aviation safety investigations & reports

Collision with terrain involving Vans RV-6, VH-ZMH, near Gatton, Queensland on 2 March 2014

Investigation number:
AO-2014-035
Status: Discontinued

Discontinued

Section 21 (2) of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 (the Act) empowers the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) to discontinue an investigation into a transport safety matter at any time. Section 21 (3) of the Act requires the ATSB to publish a statement setting out the reasons for discontinuing an investigation.

On 2 March 2014, the ATSB commenced an investigation into a collision with terrain that day involving a Van’s Aircraft RV-6 amateur-built aircraft, registered VH-ZMH, near Gatton Airpark, Queensland.

Examination of information collected during the investigation identified that the pilot held a Civil Aviation Safety Authority flight crew student pilot licence and a Recreation Aviation Australia Incorporated pilot certificate, but did not hold qualifications that entitled the pilot to fly the aircraft as pilot in command.

Examination of the aircraft wreckage identified no mechanical issues or faults with the aircraft that may have contributed to the accident.

From the available eye witness evidence, and after reviewing security video footage that captured the aircraft movements directly prior to impact, the ATSB determined that it was very likely the pilot was performing a low-level aerobatic manoeuvre at a height from which recovery to normal flight was not completed before the aircraft collided with terrain.

The ATSB did not identify any organisational or systemic issues that contributed to the development of the accident or that might adversely affect the future safety of aviation operations and assessed that no safety issues would be identified through further investigation. On that basis, the ATSB has decided to discontinue its investigation.

Summary

At about 0700 Eastern Standard Time[1] on Sunday 2 March 2014, the pilot of an amateur-built Van’s Aircraft RV-6, two-seat aeroplane, registered VH-ZMH and operated in the ‘Experimental’ category, took off from Gatton Airpark, a privately operated airstrip located about 4 km south-west of Gatton township, Queensland. The pilot conducted about 20 minutes of local area flying in the aircraft prior to returning to the airpark with no indications of any technical problems or issues with the aircraft or its systems. The aircraft was then seen to be operating at a low level over the airstrip.

A number of nearby witnesses described seeing the aircraft flying at about 20‑50 ft above the airstrip at a speed higher than that required for a normal landing or missed approach. Those witnesses also heard the aircraft and described the engine sound as ‘normal’. The aircraft was then observed to climb at a nose-up pitch attitude of about 10‑20° and commence a left roll.

The aircraft then lost height and collided with terrain at a high rate of descent. The aircraft was destroyed and the pilot was fatally injured.

Pilot information

The pilot held a Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) student pilot licence and a Recreation Aviation Australia Incorporated pilot certificate. The pilot did not hold qualifications that entitled him to fly the aircraft as pilot in command.

The CASA Civil Aircraft Register indicated that the aircraft was registered to another person; however, it was likely that accident pilot had purchased and flown the aircraft for several years prior to the accident.

Recorded data

Images from security surveillance recordings from commercial premises adjacent to the airpark captured the aircraft shortly before its impact with terrain. These images showed the aircraft descending at a high rate of descent in a right‑wing low attitude immediately prior to colliding with terrain.

Wreckage examination

Examination of the aircraft wreckage identified no mechanical issues or faults with the aircraft that may have contributed to the accident. Ground impact marks showed that the aircraft’s right wing initially collided with terrain followed by the main landing gear wheels (Figure 1). The distance between the wheel marks was greater than the normal static dimension between the wheels, which indicated a significant downward load during the impact sequence.

The ground impact marks and the witness reports were consistent with the pilot performing a low‑level ‘roll’ aerobatic manoeuvre at a height from which recovery to normal flight was not completed before the aircraft collided with terrain.

Figure 1: Ground impact marks showing the impact sequence

Ground Impact Marks 

Data gathered in support of the investigation is being analysed in terms of the scope of any continuing investigation. That analysis is anticipated for completion in June 2014.

 

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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.



[1] Eastern Standard Time (EST) was Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) + 10 hours.

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General details
Date: 02 March 2014   Investigation status: Discontinued  
Time: 7:21 EST    
Location   (show map): Gatton Airpark (ALA)   Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation  
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
Release date: 08 July 2014   Occurrence class: Operational  
Report status: Discontinued   Occurrence category: Accident  
Expected completion: 3rd Quarter 2014   Highest injury level: Fatal  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Amateur Built Aircraft  
Aircraft model Vans RV-6  
Aircraft registration VH-ZMH  
Serial number RV-60015  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Destination Gatton Airpark, Qld  
Last update 14 November 2018