History of flight
On 22 March 2014, a Cessna Aircraft Company U206G aircraft, registered VH-FRT, was being used for commercial parachuting operations from Caboolture Airfield, Queensland. The aircraft landed at about 1050 Eastern Standard Time, after completing the second flight of the day. Fuel was added to the aircraft from a refuelling facility located at the airfield, which was consistent with the operator’s normal processes.
At approximately 1124, the aircraft took off from runway 06 with the pilot, two parachuting instructors and two tandem parachutists on board. Shortly after take-off, witnesses located at the airfield observed the aircraft climb to about 150 to 200 ft above ground level before it commenced a roll to the left. The left roll steepened and the aircraft adopted a nose-down attitude until it impacted the ground in an almost vertical, left-wing low attitude. A post-impact, fuel-fed-fire destroyed the aircraft. The accident was not survivable.
Figure 1 shows an overview of Caboolture Airfield and the aircraft’s approximate take-off point, flight path and impact point.
Figure 1: Caboolture Airfield overview
Source: Google Earth and ATSB
The Cessna U206G is a high-wing, piston-engine, fixed-undercarriage design. VH-FRT was manufactured in 1977 and first registered in Australia in October 1977 (Figure 2). In 2010 the aircraft was configured for parachuting operations, which meant that all of the seats with the exception of the pilot seat were removed to allow for open floor space for parachuting operations.
The aircraft had a current certificate of airworthiness and certificate of registration. A review of maintenance records indicated that the aircraft was being maintained to a Class B charter standard, as required by the Australian Parachuting Federation. The last recorded maintenance was a 100-hourly inspection, completed on 12 February 2014. At that time the aircraft had completed 11,092.6 airframe hours. The aircraft had a current maintenance release, which was valid until 12 February 2015 or 11,192.6 aircraft hours.
Figure 2: VH-FRT
The pilot held a Commercial Pilot (Aeroplane) Licence that was issued on 24 February 2010. The pilot was appropriately endorsed to fly the Cessna 206, held a Jump Pilot Authorisation and had approximately 1,100 hours of flight experience. The pilot was reported to have been fit and well on the morning of the accident.
There were numerous witnesses to the accident located around the airfield and one witness who was piloting an aircraft in the Caboolture Airfield circuit area. Witness accounts varied with respect to the aircraft’s pitch attitude and sounds that the engine and propeller were making at various stages of the flight. However, the statements consistently described the aircraft rolling to the left, which increased in rate as the aircraft turned further left. Some witnesses described this as the aircraft appearing to enter a spiral dive moments before impacting terrain. Others described the final movements of the aircraft as consistent with an aerodynamic stall.
There was no recorded weather information for the Caboolture Airfield. Witness accounts and images taken soon after the accident indicated that there was 5‑10 kt south-easterly breeze at that time. The witnesses also reported that there was scattered cloud but no rain in the local area at the time of the accident.
Site and wreckage information
The accident site was located in the area between the centre-line of runway 12 and the north-west to south-east perimeter fence at Caboolture Airfield. Ground scarring and impact marks indicated that the left wingtip touched the ground first, then the aircraft cartwheeled before coming to rest about 35 m beyond the initial impact point (Figure 3). The wreckage trail was orientated on a magnetic bearing of about 344°. All extremities of the aircraft were identified in the wreckage, and no parts of the aircraft were identified prior to the start of the wreckage trail. The engine and both wings sustained impact and fire damage. Most of the fuselage was destroyed by the post-impact fire.
A number of aircraft components, including the engine, propeller, flight control components and parts of the pilot’s seat and associated seat rails were recovered for later technical examination.
Video recorders were normally taken on the aircraft as part of the commercial parachuting operation. The recorders were removed from the site for examination, but they were extensively damaged and no information was able to be downloaded.
Figure 3: Main wreckage site
The investigation is considering a range of scenarios to explain the aircraft’s flight path. These include the possible rearward movement of the pilot’s seat, a load shift, partial power loss and turn back, and a flight control problem. At this stage there is no definitive evidence for any particular scenario.
The investigation is continuing and will include examination of:
- the engine and propeller
- various retained aircraft components including flight controls, pilot’s seat and associated structures
- the aircraft’s maintenance records
- pilot training records
- witness statements
- statements from pilots and passengers of previous flights in the aircraft
- on-board video recordings from previous flights in the aircraft (downloaded prior to the accident flight)
- the circumstances of similar Cessna 206 accidents
- regulations and requirements for parachuting operations.
A final report is expected to be completed within 12 months of the accident. Should any significant safety issues emerge in the course of the investigation, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau will immediately bring those to the attention of the relevant authorities or organisations and publish them if required.
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.
 Eastern Standard Time (EST) is Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) +10 hours.
 Aerodynamic stall is a term used to describe when a wing is no longer producing enough lift to support an aircraft’s weight.