On the morning of 15 December 2015, a SOCATA TBM 700, aircraft, registered VH-YZZ, departed Gold Coast Airport, Queensland for Lake Macquarie Airport, New South Wales. On board were the pilot and one passenger.
The flight to Lake Macquarie was uneventful. On arrival at Lake Macquarie, the pilot overflew the aerodrome and joined a left circuit to make an approach for runway 07.
When the aircraft was just about to land on the runway the pilot started to feel ‘woozy’ and, shortly afterwards, lost consciousness. The aircraft impacted the runway, bounced and impacted the runway a second time before the pilot regained consciousness. The second impact on the runway collapsed the nose gear and the plane skidded down the runway before veering off on to the grass. The aircraft then came to a stop, resting on the damaged nose section.
The pilot and passenger were not injured during the accident and exited the aircraft. The forward section of the aircraft sustained significant damage as a result of the collapsed nose gear and skidding on the runway.
The health of flight crew is vitally important for the safe operation of aircraft. Ultimately, all flight crew are responsible for monitoring their own health and wellbeing. Any deterioration in health that may affect the performance of aircrew should be taken seriously.
While in this instance the pilot had no indication of a health concern before to the event, it is important for pilots to assess their fitness to fly prior to flight.
On the morning of 15 December 2015, a SOCATA TBM 700 aircraft, registered VH-YZZ (YZZ), departed Gold Coast Airport, Queensland for Lake Macquarie Airport, New South Wales. On board were the pilot and one passenger.
The flight to Lake Macquarie was uneventful and the pilot reported feeling well.
Source: Martin Eadie/Airliners.net
Having not previously landed at Lake Macquarie, the pilot overflew the aerodrome, at approximately 1,500 ft above ground level, to confirm the airfield layout. After the overflight, the pilot joined the upwind leg and commenced a left circuit for runway 07 (Figure 1). The aircraft was configured for landing during this time and, when on final, the approach speed was set to 80 kt.
Source: Google maps – modified by ATSB
When YZZ was on short final, the pilot began to feel ‘woozy’ and, shortly after, lost consciousness. Closed circuit television footage showed the aircraft descended onto the runway and bounced before impacting the runway in a nose-low attitude to the left of runway centreline. The nose-low impact collapsed the nose gear and caused the forward section of the aircraft to strike the runway, bending all four propeller blades. It was at this time that the pilot regained consciousness, approximately 5 to 10 seconds after losing consciousness. The aircraft then skidded on the runway before veering to the right, and onto the grass (Figure 2). The aircraft eventually stopped on the grass area next to the runway (Figure 3).
Source: Google maps – modified by ATSB
Source: Phil Hearne/Fairfax syndication
After YZZ had come to a stop, the pilot and the passenger detected a burning smell and made an emergency egress from the aircraft. Once they were safely clear of the aircraft, the pilot saw that there was no fire and that the smell was from the nose gear being jammed under the fuselage and skidding on the runway surface. The pilot then re-entered the aircraft and shut down the engine to ensure that the risk of fire was eliminated. Neither the pilot nor the passenger were injured in the accident, however the aircraft was substantially damaged.
All systems on the aircraft were functioning normally. There was no fault evident with any system that could have contributed to the pilot’s loss of consciousness.
The pilot stated they were well rested, had eaten prior to and during flight and were appropriately hydrated. The pilot reported that they had no previous loss of consciousness events, nor were there any extra pressures or distractions that may have affected them during the flight.
Medical tests and monitoring after the accident found that the loss of consciousness was due to a previously undiagnosed heart condition.
The health of flight crew is vitally important for the safe operation of aircraft. Ultimately, all flight crew are responsible for monitoring their own health and wellbeing. Any deterioration in health that may affect the performance of flight crew should be taken seriously.
While in this instance, the pilot had no indication of a health concern before to the event, it is important for pilots to assess their fitness to fly prior to flight. The following checklist provides a quick reference. A description of aeromedical factors is available in the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge.
Source: US Federal Aviation Administration
In February 2016, the ATSB released a research report into pilot incapacitation occurrences between 2010 and 2014. The report provides valuable insight into pilot incapacitation occurrences in high capacity air transport, low capacity air transport and general aviation.
The report highlights how pilot incapacitation can occur in any operation type, albeit rarely. Of interest, the research found that around 75 per cent of the incapacitation occurrences happened in high capacity air transport operations (about 1 in every 34,000 flights). With the main causes being gastrointestinal illness and laser strikes. Low capacity air transport and general aviation had fewer occurrences with a wider variation of causes of pilot incapacitation. These ranged from environmental causes, such as hypoxia, to medical conditions, such as heart attack.
Importantly, the report reminds pilots in general aviation, to assess their fitness prior to flight. Assessment of fitness includes being aware of any illness or external pressures they may be experiencing.