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On 19 March 2016, a student pilot prepared for their first solo navigation training exercise in a Cessna 172, registered VH-EOV (EOV). The flight was planned from the Gold Coast Airport, Queensland (Qld), overhead Casino, and onto Grafton Airport, New South Wales (NSW).

Prior to departure, the pilot and their instructor checked the flight plan and discussed the weather forecast.

At about 1012 Eastern Standard Time (EST), EOV departed on runway 14. During the departure, the aircraft did not track as instructed.

The aircraft subsequently flew very close to cloud. At 1020, the pilot contacted the controller to request a climb to not above 5,500 ft, as this would give them flexibility to climb or descend as required to avoid entering cloud. The controller advised the pilot there would be a short delay prior to this request being approved. During this period, EOV entered cloud.

The pilot spent the next few minutes focussed solely on the flight instruments but did not inform the controller that they were in cloud. The controller then approved the pilot to climb to 5,000 ft. While still in cloud, the pilot began the climb, and inadvertently started to turn left. The controller questioned what heading the pilot was on and when the pilot could not answer correctly, they suggested a heading for Casino. The pilot turned on to the suggested heading. The pilot then observed a break in the cloud below them and requested a descent. The controller approved the descent and asked the pilot to confirm that operations were normal. The pilot replied that all their instruments were working correctly. The pilot then descended to 1,500 ft and exited the cloud. The pilot later estimated that they were in cloud for about three minutes.

Pilots are encouraged to make conservative decisions when considering how forecast weather may affect their flight. If poor weather is encountered en route, timely and conservative decision making may be critical to a safe outcome. It is advisable to make a positive decision to turn back if the weather is not as planned and outside the capability of their experience level.

The ATSB also encourages pilots to seek assistance from ATC as soon as they find themselves in difficulty, or preferably, before the situation escalates to that point, so that ATC can provide timely assistance. 


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin- Issue 52

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General details
Date: 19 March 2016 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 12:10 EST  
Location   (show map):near Gold Coast Airport Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Queensland Occurrence type: VFR into IMC 
Release date: 28 September 2016 Occurrence class: Operational 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Serious Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Cessna Aircraft Company 
Aircraft model: 172R 
Aircraft registration: VH-EOV 
Serial number: 17280699 
Type of operation: Flying Training 
Sector: Piston 
Damage to aircraft: Nil 
Departure point:Gold Coast, Qld
Destination:Casino, NSW
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Last update 14 November 2018