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On 29 March 2016, the pilot of a Piper PA-28 aeroplane, registered VH-BDB, planned to conduct a private flight Hay to Bankstown, New South Wales (NSW), under the visual flight rules (VFR). As the weather forecast for Bankstown indicated conditions would be marginal for VFR flight, the pilot planned for an alternate landing at Bathurst, NSW.

The aircraft departed Hay, and tracked towards Glenbrook via Katoomba, from where the pilot then planned to track to Bankstown.

At about 1511, the pilot saw the cloud appear to be closing in on the planned track ahead. The pilot assessed that it would not be possible to continue on their current track and remain clear of cloud, so commenced a right turn. The aircraft then entered cloud. 

At about 1512, the pilot contacted Bankstown Tower air traffic control and declared a mayday. By the time the pilot had completed the transmission, the aircraft had flown clear of the cloud.

Air traffic control then provided assistance to the pilot and at about 1534, the pilot elected to divert to Bathurst. At about 1550, the pilot commenced descent into Bathurst, and the aircraft subsequently landed at Bathurst without further incident.

This incident highlights the benefits of seeking assistance from ATC when a pilot is in difficulty. 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.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 49

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General details
Date: 29 March 2016 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 15:12 ESuT  
Location   (show map): 33 km west Bankstown Airport Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: New South Wales Occurrence type: VFR into IMC 
Release date: 27 July 2016 Occurrence class: Operational 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Piper Aircraft Corp 
Aircraft model: PA-28-181 
Aircraft registration: VH-BDB 
Serial number: 2843425 
Type of operation: Private 
Sector: Piston 
Damage to aircraft: Nil 
Departure point:Hay, NSW
Destination:Bankstown, NSW
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Last update 18 April 2017