Aviation safety investigations & reports

Partial power loss and forced landing involving a Cessna 172 aircraft, VH-FPZ, at Carlton Hill Station Airstrip, WA on 10 September 2015

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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A pilot refuelled, pre-flighted, and prepared Cessna 172 VH-FPZ for a routine, private flight departing Carlton Hill Station airstrip.

After conducting the pre-take-off-checks, the pilot taxied the aircraft to the threshold of runway 12. The pilot selected 10° of flap and commenced the take-off run. Lift-off occurred at around 65-70 kt. As per normal, the pilot allowed the aircraft to accelerate toward the cruise climb speed of about 75-80 kt prior to establishing the aircraft in a climb.

At about 150-200 ft above the ground, the aircraft performance rapidly deteriorated. The pilot conducted some emergency checks, but the aircraft could not maintain altitude. The pilot prepared for a forced landing. They selected a space between the trees at the end of the runway. The wings struck the trees, breaking off the left wing. The pilot was not injured; however, the aircraft was substantially damaged.

Simulated total loss of power and a subsequent practice forced landing is at the core of a pilot’s emergency training. However, data shows that for light single engine aircraft, a partial power loss is three times more likely to occur than a complete engine failure.

The ATSB’s publication and You Tube video “Managing partial power loss after take-off in single-engine aircraft” is available on the ATSB website. This information highlights the importance of pre-flight decision making and planning, for emergencies and abnormal situations, for each particular aerodrome.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 45

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General details
Date: 10 September 2015   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0550 WST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Carlton Hill Station Airstrip    
State: Western Australia   Occurrence type: Engine failure or malfunction  
Release date: 22 December 2015   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model 172N  
Aircraft registration VH-FPZ  
Serial number 17273069  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Carlton Hill Station, WA  
Destination Carlton Hill Station, WA  
Last update 14 November 2018