On 19 May 2015, at about 1525 Western Standard Time (WST), a Beech A36 aircraft, registered VH‑ANX, departed from Bunbury Airport for a private flight to Wongan Hills aeroplane landing area (ALA), Western Australia. The pilot submitted a flight plan to conduct the flight under the visual flight rules (VFR).

When about 10 NM south-west of York ALA, the pilot observed the cloud start to close in, and build to the west. He made multiple diversions to the right of his planned track, but the cloud continued to close in. The pilot then commenced turning back, but the cloud had closed in behind the aircraft. He then conducted a climb to 3,500 ft and elected to enter the cloud and continue towards Northam.

At about 1547 WST, when about 1 NM east of York ALA and at 3,500 ft AMSL, the pilot contacted Perth air traffic control (ATC) and requested assistance. He advised that he was operating under a VFR flight plan, had entered cloud, and he was instrument rated. The controller identified the aircraft on radar, then at 3,700 ft.

As the aircraft was outside the Perth control area, the controller then coordinated with the Melbourne centre controller to hand the aircraft over. The controller then advised the pilot that the aircraft was now indicating an altitude of 2,800 ft and the pilot responded that he was ‘just climbing back up’.

At about 1552 WST, the pilot communicated with the Melbourne centre controller, and advised that he was now visual and would continue tracking to Northam at about 2,400 ft AMSL. The aircraft landed at Wongan Hills ALA at about 1630 WST, without further incident.

Pilots are encouraged to make conservative decisions when considering how forecast weather may affect their flight. If poor weather is encountered enroute, timely and conservative decision-making may be critical to a safe outcome.

Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 42

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