Aviation safety investigations & reports

Wheels-up landing involving a Cessna 172RG, VH-HTP, at Elcho Island Aerodrome, NT on 14 October 2015

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 14 October 2015, the pilot of a Cessna 172RG aircraft, registered VH-HTP (HTP), conducted a private flight from Ramingining to Elcho Island, Northern Territory, with two passengers on board.

When about 10 NM from Elcho Island, the pilot broadcast an inbound call on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF). The flight crew of an aircraft inbound from Darwin also broadcast on the CTAF, with an estimated arrival time about 3 to 5 minutes earlier than HTP.

At about 1050 Central Standard Time, the pilot of HTP manoeuvred the aircraft to make a straight-in approach to runway 10 at Elcho Island aerodrome. When HTP was passing about 1,300 ft on descent, and 3 NM from the runway threshold, the pilot sighted the other aircraft ahead on the runway.

The pilot considered whether it was necessary to make an orbit to allow the aircraft ahead to clear the runway. The pilot elected to continue the approach, closely monitoring the aircraft backtracking on the runway. As the aircraft ahead taxied clear of the runway, the pilot continued the approach, and selected 10° of flap. However, the pilot omitted to extend the landing gear.

As the pilot flared the aircraft for landing, the belly of the aircraft contacted the tarmac and the aircraft skidded along the runway. The pilot did not hear the stall or landing gear warning horn at any time.

The pilot and passengers were uninjured, and the aircraft sustained substantial damage.

Initially assessing that an orbit was required led to a break in the pilot’s normal pre-landing checks. The pilot was then distracted monitoring the aircraft on the ground, and the approach. Research conducted by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has identified 325 occurrences between 1997 and 2004, which involved distractions. Of these, 54 occurred during the landing phase of flight.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin Issue 46

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General details
Date: 14 October 2015   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1030 CST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Elcho Island Aerodrome    
State: Northern Territory   Occurrence type: Wheels up landing  
Release date: 28 January 2016   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model 172RG  
Aircraft registration VH-HTP  
Serial number 172RG0918  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Ramingining, NT  
Destination Elcho Island, NT  
Last update 14 November 2018