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On 13 March 2014, at 1715 western standard time (WST) a Piper Seneca aircraft registered VH-COU departed Jandakot on a private VFR flight to Denmark ALA, Western Australia. The pilot was the sole person on board.

At about 1820 the aircraft arrived over the top of Denmark, with the windsock indicating a westerly wind of about 15 knots blowing straight down runway 27. The pilot regularly flies to Denmark and is aware that at this time of day, the setting sun can restrict visibility when landing on 27. However a landing on runway 09 would have meant accepting a significant tailwind.

The pilot joined for runway 27 and by final approach had the aircraft configured for landing. At about 700 ft the visibility both inside and outside the aircraft degraded to zero. Totally blinded by the sun glare, the pilot initiated a go-around. A few moments later the aircraft struck the canopy of the rainforest which lines the runway.

Still unable to see, an unsure of what aircraft damage had occurred, the pilot conducted some handling checks. He left the aircraft in the landing configuration and joined for runway 09. The pilot was not injured however the aircraft was substantially damaged.

Sunlight and sun glare have been a major contributing factor in many aviation accidents. The US Federal Aviation Administration conducted research into the topic, and found 130 aircraft accidents in a 10 year period were associated with glare from natural sunlight. Further reading is available at www.hf.faa.gov.

It is also possible that having flown this same route regularly without issue, that the pilot experienced some level of complacency. Complacency, is a feeling of satisfaction with what is happening which may occur from a pilot’s overconfidence in performing a task that has been previously conducted numerous times without incident.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 33

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General details
Date: 13 March 2014 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 1820 WST  
Location   (show map):Denmark (ALA) Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Western Australia Occurrence type: Terrain Collision 
Release date: 06 August 2014 Occurrence class: Operational 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Accident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Piper Aircraft Corp 
Aircraft model: PA-34-200T 
Aircraft registration: VH-COU 
Serial number: 34-7870273 
Type of operation: Private 
Sector: Piston 
Damage to aircraft: Substantial 
Departure point:Jandakot, WA
Destination:Denmark, WA
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Last update 14 November 2018