Final Report

Summary

What happened

On 22 March 2014, a Cessna Aircraft Company (Cessna) U206G aircraft, registered VH-FRT, was being used for tandem parachuting operations at Caboolture Airfield, Queensland. At about 1124 Eastern Standard Time, the aircraft took off from runway 06 with the pilot, two parachuting instructors and two tandem parachutists on board. Shortly after take-off, witnesses at the airfield observed the aircraft climb to about 200 ft above ground level before it commenced a roll to the left. The left roll steepened and the aircraft then adopted a nose‑down attitude until impacting the ground in an almost vertical, left-wing low attitude. All of the occupants on board were fatally injured. A post-impact, fuel-fed fire destroyed the aircraft.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB identified that the aircraft aerodynamically stalled at a height from which it was too low to recover control prior to collision with terrain. The reason for the aerodynamic stall was unable to be determined. Extensive fire damage prevented examination and testing of most of the aircraft components. Consequently, a mechanical defect could not be ruled out as a contributor to the accident.

A number of safety issues were also identified by the ATSB. These included findings associated with occupant restraint, modification of parachuting aircraft and the regulatory classification of parachuting operations.

What's been done as a result

The Australian Parachute Federation (APF) mandated a requirement for all member parachute training/tandem organisations to have their own safety management system. The APF have also increased the number of full‑time safety personnel to audit their member organisations.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has increased the available information on their website about the risks associated with sports aviation. CASA also introduced an Airworthiness Bulletin to provide guidance about co‑pilot side flight control modifications.

In response to the identified safety issues, the ATSB has recommended that CASA take safety action to increase the fitment of the Cessna secondary pilot seat stop modification and reduce the risk associated with the aviation aspect of parachuting operations. Finally, recommendations were issued to CASA and the APF to increase the use of dual‑point restraints in parachuting aircraft.

Safety message

The current classification of parachuting as a private operation means there are fewer risk controls than for other similar aviation activities that also involve payment for carriage. Prospective tandem parachutists should be aware that accident data indicates that parachuting is less safe than other aviation activities, such as scenic flights.

The ATSB’s investigation of this accident, and a previous fatal parachuting accident, indicated that the single-point restraints currently fitted to Australian parachuting aircraft may not be consistently used by occupants. While research shows that they may not be as effective as dual-point restraints at preventing injury in an accident, they do limit the movement of parachutists within the aircraft, therefore reducing the likelihood of load shift during flight. That affords some occupant protection and ensures that the aircraft remains controllable.

The occurrence

Context

Safety analysis

Findings

Safety issues and actions

Sources and submissions

Appendices