Aviation safety investigations & reports

Pilot incapacitation involving Cessna 208, VH-NTQ, near Horn Island, Queensland, 12 July 2016

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

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At 1446 Eastern Standard Time on 12 July 2016, a Westwing Aviation Cessna 208 aircraft, registered VH-NTQ, departed Horn Island Airport, Queensland, for a scheduled passenger flight to Cairns, Queensland, with a pilot and seven passengers on board.

As the aircraft climbed towards the planned cruising altitude of 9,000 ft, the pilot began to feel light-headed, dizzy and short of breath. The pilot levelled the aircraft at 9,000 ft and engaged the autopilot. They then attempted to identify a reason for the symptoms, selected air conditioning off, opened a fresh air vent and ate a snack. No reason for the symptoms could be identified. As the flight continued, the symptoms intensified, the pilot felt tingling in their hands and fingers, and large head movements caused severe nausea.

About 20 NM north of Lockhart River, the aircraft approached a significant over-water segment. The pilot assessed that the symptoms would not pass and elected to divert to Lockhart River.

The aircraft landed at Lockhart River without further incident, the pilot and passengers were not injured and the aircraft was not damaged.

The ATSB safety education publication Pilot incapacitation occurrences 2010–2014 (AR-2015-096) documents recent pilot incapacitation occurrences in high capacity air transport, low capacity air transport, and general aviation to help educate industry about the causes and risks associated with inflight pilot incapacitation.

The ATSB report Pilot incapacitation: Analysis of medical conditions affecting pilots involved in accidents and incidents examined medical conditions and incapacitation events between 1 January 1975 and 31 March 2006. This report concluded that the majority of pilot incapacitation events do not involve a chronic or pre-existing medical condition. They are largely unforeseeable events, often involving acute illnesses or injury. Many are not in themselves life-threatening, but are capable of impairing a pilot’s performance to the extent that safe operation of the aircraft may be adversely affected.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 53

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General details
Date: 12 July 2016   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 14:55 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Horn Island Airport    
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Flight crew incapacitation  
Release date: 14 October 2016   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model 208  
Aircraft registration VH-NTQ  
Serial number 20800183  
Operator West Wing Aviation  
Type of operation Air Transport Low Capacity  
Sector Turboprop  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Horn Island, Qld  
Destination Cairns, Qld  
Last update 14 November 2018