On 4 December 2015, the pilot of an Air Tractor AT-502B aircraft, registered VH-PTF, was conducting aerial spraying operations from Dalby Airport, Queensland.

At about 1210 Eastern Standard Time (EST), the aircraft departed from Dalby, and tracked towards the field to be sprayed, which was about 13 NM to the southwest. The pilot then overflew the field, first at about 100 ft above ground level (AGL), then at 50 ft AGL. The pilot noted gas wells on gravel pads. The pilot also saw a solar panel a short distance from a well, located in the crop and not on a separate pad. The pilot did not see an antenna at the site of the solar panel at that time.

The aircraft then climbed and tracked a short distance away, and the pilot set up the GPS in readiness to commence the spray run. The pilot commenced the first spray run, tracking towards the solar panel. As the aircraft came within about 20-30 m of the panel, the pilot noticed a pole behind the panel, protruding about 3 m above the crop, with an antenna on it. The pilot immediately conducted a climb to avoid the pole and antenna, but the aircraft struck the pole.

The pilot decided to land as soon as practicable and assess the damage to the aircraft. The pilot therefore elected to return to Dalby, where there were emergency services available. During the return flight, the aircraft had a minor vibration. The aircraft landed safely at about 1240, and the pilot was uninjured. The aircraft sustained damage to the left wing and the propeller.

This incident highlights the importance of communication in identifying risks for low-level flying operations.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 47

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