Aviation safety investigations & reports

Wire strike and impact with terrain involving a Cessna 182L aircraft, VH-TRS, Burrumbuttock, NSW on 20 July 2014

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Final Report

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What happened

On 20 July 2014, the pilot of a Cessna 182L aircraft, registered VH-TRS, was conducting a private flight in the local area surrounding the rural township of Burrumbuttock, NSW. The aircraft was observed by witnesses to be travelling at low altitude in a westerly direction toward the township. As the aircraft was flown above a paddock on the outskirts of the town, the aircraft struck wires from a high voltage powerline. The aircraft subsequently rolled inverted and impacted terrain. The wreckage came to rest a short distance from the Farmers Inn. The pilot was fatally injured and the aircraft was destroyed.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found no evidence of any engine or airframe defect that may have contributed to the accident. The pilot did not hold any approval to conduct low flying and had not received training in the identification of hazards or in the operating techniques for flight close to the ground. There was no operational reason identified for the pilot to have been flying at such a low altitude on the day of the accident. The evidence also indicated that the pilot had a history of unauthorized low flying.

The pilot was reported to be in good health with no issues that might have affected his ability to fly an aircraft. Despite this, the post mortem medical examination revealed a pre-existing medical condition that could have resulted in pilot incapacitation. While it is possible that the pilot may have had a medical incapacitation event immediately prior to the accident, the aircraft was being operated in a manner consistent with previous flights undertaken by the pilot and at a level that provided little margin for error should such an event have been experienced.

Safety message

This accident highlights the importance to pilots of not flying below the regulated thresholds of 1,000 ft AGL for flight over populated areas and 500 ft for flight over non-populated areas. Pilots who fly below this height without appropriate training and an operational reason to do so are exposing themselves and any passengers that may be on board to an increased risk of striking hazards, such as electrical power lines, many of which are difficult to see from the cockpit of an aircraft in flight.

Accident site VH-TRS


Source: ATSB

Download Final report
[Download  PDF: 3.01MB]

The occurrence


Safety analysis


General details
Date: 20 July 2014   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1600 EST   Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): near Burrumbuttock    
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Wirestrike  
Release date: 14 December 2015   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Fatal  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model 182L  
Aircraft registration VH-TRS  
Serial number 18258815  
Type of operation General Aviation-Unknown  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Last update 14 November 2018