Aviation safety investigations & reports

Synthetic vision display error involving Pilatus PC-12, VH-OWA, Meekatharra Airport, Western Australia, 18 June 2016

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

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On 18 June 2016, the pilot flying and a check pilot (who was the pilot in command) of a Pilatus PC-12 47E aircraft, registered VH-OWA (OWA), prepared to conduct a medical retrieval flight from Meekatharra Airport to Paraburdoo, Western Australia. 

The aircraft took off from runway 09 at about 0145 Western Standard Time. About 18 seconds after take-off, as the aircraft climbed through about 250 ft above ground level, the pilots observed the radio altimeter (radalt) wind down to zero. The radalt low altitude awareness display rose to meet the altitude readout.

The synthetic vision image on both pilots’ primary flight displays (PFDs) then showed the runway move rapidly left and off the screen, and the ground representation on the PFD appeared to rise rapidly up to meet the zero pitch reference line. 

The pilot flying reported that the synthetic vision image created the impression that the aircraft was sinking rapidly towards the ground, and they responded by instinctively pulling back on the control column. The flight path indicator moved up to about 15°. No warnings or cautions were displayed and the crew did not receive any oral alerts from the terrain awareness and warning system.   

The check pilot immediately looked outside and was able to discern a visible horizon due to the moonlight. The check pilot cautioned the pilot flying that the aircraft had a nose-high attitude, which prompted the pilot flying to switch their focus to the electronic standby instrument system and closely monitor the attitude and the airspeed tape. The pilot flying lowered the aircraft nose to regain an 8° pitch attitude and the airspeed, which had reduced to 101 kt, increased back to the target airspeed of 110 kt. The aircraft had continued to climb throughout the event and passing 850 ft all indications returned to normal. The aircraft subsequently landed at Paraburdoo Airport without further incident.

Incorrect instrument indications that are not associated with a failure mode present pilots with a complex and challenging situation.

Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 56

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General details
Date: 18 June 2016   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 01:47 WST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Meekatharra Aerodrome    
State: Western Australia   Occurrence type: Avionics/flight instruments  
Release date: 17 January 2017   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Pilatus Aircraft Ltd  
Aircraft model PC-12/47E  
Aircraft registration VH-OWA  
Serial number 1115  
Type of operation Medical Transport  
Sector Turboprop  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Meekatharra, WA  
Destination Paraburdoo, WA  
Last update 14 November 2018