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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  
Location   (show map):Horn Island Airport Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Queensland Occurrence type: Flight crew incapacitation 
Release date: 14 October 2016 Occurrence class: Operational 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
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
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Last update 14 November 2018