On 31 May 2014, a Beech Aircraft Corp D17-S, registered VH-FNS, was conducting a private flight, departing Crooked Brook landing area for Geraldton airport, Western Australia, at about 1322 Australian Western Standard Time. The pilot was the only person on board. The flight was conducted in visual meteorological conditions.
After departure, the pilot tracked in a northerly direction and climbed to an altitude of about 2,500 ft above mean sea level. About a minute after setting the engine to cruise power the pilot felt a violent vibration with an associated decrease in engine power. The pilot described the engine as ‘surging’ and ‘back firing’. The pilot conducted initial troubleshooting and was unable to identify a reason for the engine malfunction. The vibration ceased and the engine was no longer producing power but the propeller was windmilling. The pilot elected to leave the landing gear retracted and set up a glide approach tracking to the north east to locate a more suitable landing area to conduct a forced landing. A suitable paddock was identified that was near a house. The aircraft flew over a line of tall trees and then clipped a fence that was next to a private road leading to the house, went through and was partially arrested by a second fence on the other side of the road, impacted a large log and came to rest. A passer-by assisted the pilot evacuate the aircraft. The pilot was seriously injured and transported to hospital and the aircraft was substantially damaged.
This accident is a timely reminder for pilots to consider the effect an in-flight engine failure at different altitudes has on the time available to manage that failure and identify a suitable forced landing area.