On 12 April 2014, a PA-28 aircraft registered VH-FEZ (FEZ) departed Mangalore airport, Victoria, on a dual navigation training exercise in central Victoria.

During the Shepparton to Tocumwal sector, the instructor requested that the student divert directly to Wangaratta Aerodrome.

At the time, a jet model aircraft group event was in progress at Wangaratta, and the aerodrome was closed. This closure had been advised by NOTAM. A white cross had been placed near the primary windsock, also indicating the closure.

Although the student had broadcast all mandatory CTAF calls, the model aircraft ground controller monitoring the UNICOM did not hear them. He did hear the engine sound as FEZ approached the circuit, and watched it continue to the east. He assumed it had departed the area. Shortly after, he was advised the aircraft was on final approach for runway 18. He quickly organised the clearing of the runway, and the movement of the 3 airborne model aircraft away from the area.

As the student had been having difficulty with directional control during landings, the instructor was focussed on this aspect during the circuit. Neither of them noticed the displayed white cross, or the activity on the ground.

The aircraft touched down, and as it became airborne again, the instructor noticed the barricades, took control of the aircraft, and departed the area.

The instructor had a full day scheduled. The student had been delayed in his flight plan preparation. By trying to remain punctual and efficient, the instructor had checked the weather and the student’s flight plan, but not the NOTAMS. He had also had disrutped sleep for the last few nights, due to a sick family member.

Before commencing a flight, the pilot in command should review all available information appropriate to the intended operation, including current weather reports and forecasts, and the condition and suitability of the selected landing area/s. This occurrence also highlights the need to check for any operational markers.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 33