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Updated: 14 July 2016

Completion of the draft investigation report has been delayed by competing team member priorities and workload and the requirement for additional investigative work. This includes seeking further information from the aircraft’s avionics manufacturer and the pilot’s training organisation.

The report is now anticipated for release to directly involved parties (DIP) for comment in October 2015. Feedback from those parties over the 28-day DIP period on the factual accuracy of the draft report will be considered for inclusion in the final report, which is anticipated to be released to the public in December 2016.




Updated: 13 October 2015

At about 1410 Eastern Standard Time[1] on 8 September 2015, the pilot of a Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP, registered VH-ZEW, departed Point Cook Airport on a return solo navigational training flight via Ballarat, Victoria.

Witnesses stated that at about 1542 they observed the aircraft approaching Black Hill, near Millbrook, about 14 NM (26 km) east-south-east of Ballarat Airport. A number of witnesses reported seeing the aircraft flying ‘very low’ and hearing an increase in power prior to the aircraft cresting the hill. Engine power was reported by witnesses to have changed a few times before the aircraft disappeared from sight. No witnesses reported seeing the aircraft collide with terrain (Figure 1). The pilot sustained fatal injuries and the aircraft was destroyed.

Figure 1: Accident site and wreckage of Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP, VH-ZEW

Figure 1: Accident site and wreckage of Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP, VH-ZEW

Source: ATSB

Wreckage examination

Site and wreckage examination indicated that the aircraft impacted terrain on a 20° upslope. The aircraft came to rest about 60 m from the initial impact point (Figure 2). There was no fire.

Figure 2: Accident site, showing the initial point of impact and wreckage trail

Source: ATSB

The aircraft’s structure was significantly disrupted during the impact sequence. The propeller separated from the engine and showed signs of rotational damage.

The aircraft was fitted with an integrated flight control system that was capable of recording data such as flight and engine parameters. The integrated flight data log memory card from this system was located in the wreckage trail.

Aircraft components examination

A number of aircraft items and components, including the integrated flight data log memory card, were recovered for examination at the ATSB’s technical facility in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.

The integrated flight data log memory card was successfully downloaded, showing flight and engine parameters at 1-second intervals up to about 10 seconds before the impact with terrain. The premature termination of the recording was attributed to power supply disconnection due to impact forces, rather than normal system shut down.

The investigation is continuing and will include examination of:

  • data from the aircraft’s global positioning system equipment
  • the aircraft’s maintenance documents
  • the pilot’s flying and training records
  • the meteorological information affecting the flight
  • relevant organisational information.


The information contained in this web update is released in accordance with section 25 of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 and is derived from the initial investigation of the occurrence. Readers are cautioned that new evidence will become available as the investigation progresses that will enhance the ATSB's understanding of the accident as outlined in this web update. As such, no analysis or findings are included in this update.



  1. Eastern Standard Time (EST) was Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) +10 hours.

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General details
Date: 08 Sep 2015 Investigation status: Active 
Time: 15:42 EST Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
Location   (show map):near Millbrook Occurrence type:Collision with terrain 
State: Victoria  
 Occurrence category: Accident 
Report status: Pending Highest injury level: Fatal 
Expected completion: Dec 2016  
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Cessna Aircraft Company 
Aircraft model: 172S 
Aircraft registration: VH-ZEW 
Serial number: 172S11079 
Type of operation: Flying Training 
Sector: Piston 
Damage to aircraft: Destroyed 
Departure point:Point Cook, Vic
Departure time:1410 EST
Destination:Point Cook, Vic
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Last update 14 July 2016