Aviation safety investigations & reports

Engine malfunction and collision with terrain involving a Piper PA-23, VH-BIQ, near Mareeba, Qld on 5 March 2016

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Final Report

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The owner and maintainer of a Piper PA-23 aeroplane, registered VH-BIQ, who was also a pilot, had received a special flight permit (from a person authorised by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to issue such permits) to ferry the aircraft from Mareeba, Queensland, to Darwin, Northern Territory, for a 100-hourly inspection. On the morning of 5 March 2016, the pilot conducted a local flight from Mareeba Airport, to check everything was functioning normally on the aircraft, in preparation for the planned flight to Darwin. The pilot reported that the aircraft performed normally during the take-off and climb to about 2,500 ft above mean sea level. However, witnesses reported that at least one engine was running roughly during taxi and take-off, and that the aircraft appeared to climb poorly after take-off. 

At about 1200 Eastern Standard Time, the aircraft was returning to the airport when the pilot observed the left engine revolutions per minute decrease significantly. The pilot conducted a series of actions to try to rectify the power loss, but the aircraft descended rapidly.

At about 200 ft above ground level, the pilot realised that the landing gear was extended. The pilot conducted a forced landing, and the aircraft collided with cane fields, crossed a road and collided with a tree, resulting in substantial damage. The pilot, who was the only occupant of the aircraft, sustained a minor injury.

In this situation, good decision making such as selecting a suitable landing site as soon as possible, which way to turn and avoiding manoeuvring at low level, is essential.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 49

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General details
Date: 05 March 2016   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1200 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): near Mareeba Airport,    
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
Release date: 27 July 2016   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Minor  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Piper Aircraft Corp  
Aircraft model PA-23-250  
Aircraft registration VH-BIQ  
Serial number 27-7654075  
Type of operation General Aviation-Unknown  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Mareeba, Qld  
Last update 14 November 2018