On 27 October 2014, at about 1030 Eastern Daylight-savings Time (EDT), a Cessna 172 aircraft, registered VH-ZZD departed Ballarat, Victoria, for Luskintyre, New South Wales, on a private flight under the visual flight rules. The pilot refuelled at Wangaratta, Victoria, and took a break for refreshments at Temora, New South Wales. As he neared Kandos, New South Wales, the pilot elected to track directly to Luskintyre, rather than follow his planned route which took him over a number of towns further north.
The direct track between Kandos and Luskintyre was over heavily treed and undulating terrain, leaving the pilot unable to positively visually fix his position. As he continued in an easterly direction, the pilot grew increasingly concerned about the possibility of infringing controlled airspace further to the east. Rather than risk infringing controlled airspace, the pilot decided to make a precautionary landing to ascertain his position. The pilot commented that precautionary landing options were very limited, but he ultimately selected a paddock that was clear of obstacles, and while relatively short, it offered an uphill landing run to assist in stopping the aircraft.
During his approach to land on the selected paddock, with full flap selected, the pilot found himself overshooting the selected aim point. Concerned that he would not be able to land safely, the pilot elected to discontinue the approach and commenced a go-around. As the go-around proceeded however, the aircraft collided with a line of trees on rising terrain beyond the far end of the selected paddock. The aircraft was substantially damaged and the pilot received serious injuries. The aircraft wreckage was discovered by a local resident around 2 hours after the accident, independent of other search and rescue activities.
Pilots unsure of their position or requiring navigational assistance, are encouraged to seek Flight Following services from ATC. In this case, contact with ATC may have allayed the pilot’s concerns about the prospect of infringing controlled airspace, and negated the need to consider a precautionary landing. With respect to precautionary landings, pilots are encouraged to initiate an early go-around given any doubt regarding the prospects of a safe landing.