On 18 December 2014, at about 0520 Eastern Daylight-saving Time, the pilot of an Air Tractor AT-502B aircraft, registered VH-PTF, commenced aerial agricultural spraying on a property about 45 km west of Moree, New South Wales.

The job consisted of spraying four fields and the two western-most fields were sprayed in a north-south direction. To avoid a property, the two remaining fields were sprayed in an east-west direction.

The pilot established a racetrack pattern at the southern end of the field and overflew a storage dam wall heading east. At that time, he observed the dam wall and the sun was rising but obscured by cloud. The pilot then turned the aircraft towards the west and commenced the first spray run, again overflying the dam wall. After completing that spray run, the pilot turned the aircraft to the east again for the second spray run.

The sun was then above the cloud and directly in the pilot’s eyes obscuring his visibility ahead of the aircraft. As the pilot was about to commence a climb and turn at the end of the spray run, he extended the run to spray some weeds. The pilot then turned the spray off and commenced a climb. As the aircraft climbed to about 30 ft, the landing gear collided with the dam wall, about 60 cm below the top of the wall.

The pilot then dumped the chemical load and returned to the airstrip on the property about 4 km away. Both landing gear struts had been detached which had then broken off the right flap, damaged the left flap and ruptured both fuel tanks. During the landing the propeller was damaged. The pilot was not injured.

Following the incident, all company pilots will be reminded of the importance of identifying hazards as part of the pre-application checks.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 39