On 29 January 2016, a Piper aircraft PA-28-235, registered VH-PXD, was being operated on a private flight from Moorabbin Airport, Victoria to King Island Airport, Tasmania. There were four people on board, three of whom were private pilots. At this stage of the investigation, the pilot in command has not been established. Other aircraft from the same aero club were also flying to King Island over the course of the afternoon.
The aircraft departed Moorabbin Airport runway 13L at 1203 Eastern Daylight-saving Time. Recorded air traffic control (ATC) data indicated that the aircraft climbed to 1,000 ft then turned south-west near Seaford. The aircraft then climbed to 1,400 ft tracking over Port Phillip Bay, then west towards the Bellarine Peninsula (Figure 1). The ATC data also showed that, after passing over Point Lonsdale, the pilot carried out a series of turns, before there was a final steepening and rapidly-descending turn.
A witness, who was fishing approximately 3 km off the coast near Barwon Heads, reported seeing the aircraft descend out of cloud in a steep, nose-down attitude with the right wing lower than the left. The witness recalled that a few seconds later, the aircraft impacted the water about 200 m from their positon.
Examination of the witness reports and derived ATC data indicated that the aircraft impacted the water at about 1228. A number of witnesses, including other aero club pilots in the area at about the time, reported that visibility in the area between Barwon Heads and Point Lonsdale was reduced by cloud and rain.
The four aircraft occupants were fatally injured and the aircraft was destroyed.
Figure 1: Map showing the aircraft’s departure point, its track (in yellow), Seaford and the accident site
Source: Google earth, modified by the ATSB
Wreckage examination indicated that the aircraft’s fuselage and associated components were subjected to high impact forces and subsequently failed in overload. The aircraft’s wings were not located. A number of aircraft components, including the engine and propeller, were recovered for later technical examination.
The investigation is continuing and will include examination of the:
- pilots’ qualifications and experience
- engine, propeller and other recovered aircraft components
- maintenance documentation
- effect on the flight of the weather in the region.
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.