Aviation safety investigations & reports

Near collision involving a Cessna 172S, VH-USL, and parachutists, Lower Light (ALA), South Australia, on 6 November 2016

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

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At about 1113, Central Daylight-saving Time on the 6 November 2016, a Cessna 172S aircraft, registered VH-USL (USL), departed Parafield Airport, South Australia, for a local flight in the western training area. The pilot was the only person on board the private flight.

After passing the outbound reporting point, the pilot initiated a climb to 2,500 ft and navigated along the VFR route towards Dublin. In the cruise, the pilot attempted to get the autopilot to engage but it did not responded as they expected. The pilot reported that they made regular checks and would look from inside the cockpit to outside to check the aircraft was maintaining a direction to Dublin and that no other aircraft were in the vicinity.

During this time, a Cessna 206 (C206) aircraft departed Lower Light aircraft landing area (ALA) for parachute operations. They were on climb to flight level (FL) 120 where four parachutists planned to exit the aircraft overhead the Lower Light ALA. 

At about 1123, the pilot broadcast on the area frequency advising traffic in the Lower Light area that in about three minutes they would be at FL 120 and would conduct a parachute drop.

Shortly after the pilot of USL looked out and observed parachutes just below and to the left of the aircraft at a distance of about 200 m. After checking that it was all clear, the pilot turned the aircraft left to manoeuvre away from Lower Light ALA.

The pilot of USL disconnected the autopilot, navigated to Dublin, returned to Parafield via the inbound VFR route, and landed without further incident. The parachutists landed without further incident.

This incident highlights the importance to maintain situational awareness through active navigation and active listening to radio communications. 

Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 56

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General details
Date: 06 November 2016   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 11:20 CSuT   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Lower Light (ALA)    
State: South Australia   Occurrence type: Near collision  
Release date: 17 January 2017   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model 172S  
Aircraft registration VH-USL  
Serial number 172S10254  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Parafield, SA  
Destination Parafield, SA  
Last update 14 November 2018