Aviation safety investigations & reports

Collision with terrain involving Cessna 208 Caravan, VH-WTY, 11 km north-east of Hamilton Island Airport, Queensland on 28 January 2016

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed
Phase: Final report: Dissemination Read more information on this investigation phase

Final Report

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What happened

On 28 January 2016, the pilot of a Cessna Aircraft Company C208 Caravan amphibian aircraft, registered VH-WTY, was flying 10 passengers on a charter flight over the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Before returning to Hamilton Island, the flight was scheduled to stop for about 90 minutes at Chance Bay, Whitsunday Island, about 11 km north-east of Hamilton Island Airport. During the attempted water landing, the aircraft bounced twice on the water’s surface. The pilot then initiated a go-around and the aircraft bounced a third time. While attempting to climb out of the bay, the aircraft clipped trees and collided with terrain. The pilot and all passengers safely exited the aircraft with minor injuries. The aircraft was destroyed.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that the aircraft was flown beyond the aircraft landing area northern boundary before the first bounce off the water. This, combined with the delay in initiating a go-around, reduced the options and margins available for a safe outcome.

The engine operating limitations contained in the float operations pilot operating handbook supplement were also not consistent with other publications and may have influenced the power level applied by the pilot during the go‑around.

What's been done as a result

The float manufacturer-published pilot operating handbook supplement was amended with respect to engine operating limits.The operator advised they have taken action to enhance or update existing procedures and checklists for their float plane operations.

Safety message

Charter seaplane operations present unique challenges, particularly in relation to the water landing environment. Variable sea conditions and the possibility of sharing the landing area with marine vessels and people mean that every landing has the potential to be markedly different.

A go-around is a normal procedure and a safe option whenever landing conditions are not satisfactory. However, it is important to consider aircraft performance and local conditions when planning an escape route, including conducting ‘mental rehearsals’ of standard procedures. In addition, making an early decision to conduct a go-around significantly reduces the associated risk.

VH-WTY at Chance Bay earlier on 28 January 2016
VH-WTY at Chance Bay earlier on 28 January 2016

Download final report
[Download  PDF: 2.94MB]

The occurrence


Safety analysis


Safety issues and actions

Pilot details

Sources and submissions


General details
Date: 28 January 2016   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1518 EST   Investigation level: Systemic - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 11 km north east Hamilton Island Airport (Chance Bay)   Investigation phase: Final report: Dissemination  
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
Release date: 25 June 2020   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Minor  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model 208 Caravan  
Aircraft registration VH-WTY  
Serial number 20800522  
Type of operation Charter  
Sector Turboprop  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Departure point Hamilton Island, Queensland  
Destination Chance Bay, Queensland  
Last update 25 June 2020