On 9 July 2014, at about 1340 Eastern Standard Time, a Cessna 206, registered VH-NCR, departed from Dubbo, New South Wales on a private flight to Gold Coast and Archerfield, Queensland, under the visual flight rules (VFR), with three passengers on board. When about 15 NM south of Inverell, the pilot observed the weather deteriorating and low cloud about the ranges, and elected to climb and operate VFR on top of the cloud.  As the aircraft climbed above 5,000 ft, the pilot observed a widespread frontal mass of cloud with tops around 12,000 ft. He contacted Brisbane Centre air traffic control (ATC) and requested navigation assistance and ATC provided updated weather information.

The pilot initially considered a diversion to Moree, however he was able to descend through a break in the cloud and elected to divert to Inverell. When about 5 NM from Inverell, the pilot was unable to sight the airport and was concerned about the lowering cloud base in the area. He commenced a turn, but passing about 3,800 ft during the turn, the aircraft entered cloud. The pilot immediately applied full power and commenced climbing until the aircraft became clear of cloud at about 5,000 ft.

The pilot diverted to Gunnedah and was able to remain in visual meteorological conditions for the duration of the flight. The aircraft landed in Gunnedah at about 1650.

This incident provides a reminder to pilots to make conservative decisions when considering how forecast weather may affect their flight. If poor weather is encountered en route, timely and conservative decision making may be critical to a safe outcome.


Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin - Issue 35