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Published: 16 June 2017

The ATSB is investigating a fatal aircraft accident involving a Cessna 172 aircraft, registered VH-FYN, that occurred about 13 km NNW of Ballina, NSW on 16 June 2017.

The aircraft collided with terrain and the pilot, the only person on board, was fatally injured.

The ATSB has deployed a team of four investigators to the accident site with expertise that includes aircraft engineering and maintenance.

While on site the team will be examining the site and wreckage, gathering any recorded data, and interviewing any witnesses.

The ATSB will provide an update on its website outlining the facts of the accident within 30 days.



Updated: 17 July 2017

On 16 June 2017, a Cessna Aircraft Company C172M, registered VH-FYN, was being operated on a private flight from Southport Mason Field, Queensland to Ballina Airport, New South Wales. The purpose of the flight was to ferry the aircraft to Ballina for routine maintenance. The pilot, who was the owner of the aircraft, was the sole occupant.

The aircraft departed Southport Mason Field at approximately 0811 Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST).[1] Recorded air traffic control (ATC) data showed the aircraft climbed to an altitude of 1,500 ft above mean sea level (AMSL) and turned south-east. The aircraft then tracked over Robina Town Centre to Stotts Island at between 1,500 and 1,800 ft AMSL along the western visual flight rules (VFR) route. The aircraft then turned further south and tracked towards Ballina at 1,500 ft AMSL. ATC data then showed the aircraft descend to an altitude of 800 ft AMSL near Bangalow, NSW, and track inland to the west before radar identification was lost. Radar identification was regained momentarily, further west at an altitude of 700 ft AMSL.

At approximately 0845, a witness travelling south on the Pacific Highway, just past Bangalow, reported seeing a low flying aircraft turning to the west and disappearing into cloud. The witness stated there were low patchy clouds with fog and drizzly rain in the area at the time. At approximately 0850, several witnesses in the vicinity of Brooklet, NSW heard the engine noise of a low flying aircraft, followed by a loud bang.

The aircraft wreckage was located on a farming property near Brooklet, 13 km NNW of Ballina airport. Several witnesses in the vicinity of the accident site reported low cloud and fog in the area at the time of the accident.

Figure 1: The accident aircraft, VH-FYN

Figure 1: The accident aircraft, VH-FYN

Source: Dave Wilson

Wreckage examination

On-site examination of the wreckage and surrounding ground markings indicated that the aircraft impacted terrain in a steep nose‑down attitude and banked to the right. The aircraft initially impacted trees near the crest of a ridge. Both wings separated from the fuselage, which was located approximately 30 m down from the ridge. The engine and propeller had also separated from the fuselage and were a further 20 m along the wreckage trail. A strong smell of aviation fuel was present at the accident site. There was no evidence of fire.

Evidence from examination of the engine and propeller was consistent with the engine producing power at the time of the accident. A number of aircraft instruments and electronic devices were recovered from the accident site for further examination by the ATSB. The aircraft was not equipped with a flight data recorder or cockpit voice recorder, nor was it required to be.

Ongoing investigation

The investigation is continuing and will include consideration of the:

  • weather in the region and its effect on the flight
  • pilot’s qualifications, experience and medical history
  • maintenance documentation
  • recovered instruments and available electronic data.

The information contained in this web update is released in accordance with section 25 of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 and is derived from the initial investigation of the occurrence. Readers are cautioned that new evidence will become available as the investigation progresses that will enhance the ATSB's understanding of the accident as outlined in this web update. As such, no analysis or findings are included in this update.



  1. Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) was Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) + 10 hours.
General details
Date: 16 June 2017 Investigation status: Active 
Time: 8:45 EST Investigation phase: Final report: Internal review 
Location   (show map):Rishworths Lane, Brooklet Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: New South Wales Occurrence type: Collision with terrain 
Release date: 17 July 2017 Occurrence class: Operational 
Report status: Preliminary Occurrence category: Accident 
Anticipated completion: 1st Quarter 2019 Highest injury level: Fatal 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Cessna Aircraft Company 
Aircraft model: 172M 
Aircraft registration: VH-FYN 
Serial number: 17267270 
Type of operation: Private 
Sector: Piston 
Damage to aircraft: Destroyed 
Departure point:Southport Mason Field, Qld
Destination:Ballina/Byron Gateway, NSW
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Last update 14 November 2018