Aviation safety investigations & reports

Collision with terrain involving Cessna 182, VH-TSA, at Tomahawk, Tasmania, on 20 January 2018

Investigation number:
AO-2018-008
Status: Completed
Investigation completed
Phase: Final report: Dissemination Read more information on this investigation phase

Final Report

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What happened

On 20 January 2018, the pilot of a Cessna 182P aircraft, registered VH-TSA, departed The Vale Airstrip, Sheffield, for a private airfield at Tomahawk, Tasmania. On arrival, the pilot conducted a number of orbits prior to approaching the runway. The aircraft touched down more than halfway along the runway before bouncing several times. In response, the pilot commenced a go‑around but the aircraft collided with a tree beyond the end of the runway and impacted the ground. The passenger was fatally injured and the pilot sustained serious injuries. The aircraft was substantially damaged.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB identified that the selected approach direction exposed the aircraft to a tailwind that significantly increased the groundspeed on final approach and resulted in insufficient landing distance available. Additionally, the final approach path was not stable. In combination with the tailwind, that resulted in the aircraft being too high and fast with a bounced landing well beyond the runway threshold.

Finally, the go-around was initiated at a point from which there was insufficient distance remaining for the aircraft to climb above the tree at the end of the runway in the landing flap configuration and tailwind conditions.

Safety message

The ATSB reminds pilots of the importance of obtaining all relevant information about the local conditions, including wind direction and strength, prior to commencing an approach to an aerodrome. While a windsock is not required for all aircraft landing areas, it provides a simple visual means for pilots to assess the wind direction and strength.

This accident highlights the importance of conducting a standard approach to an aerodrome. This enables assessment of the environmental and runway conditions and allows checks to be completed in a predictable manner. When approaching a non-controlled aerodrome, pilots are required to join a leg of the circuit and, if joining on final, to establish the aircraft on final approach at least 3 NM from the runway threshold to ensure a stable approach path. If a safe landing cannot be assured, a pilot should initiate a go-around early, and ensure the aircraft is configured in accordance with the operating handbook.

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The occurrence

Safety analysis

Findings

Sources and submissions

Preliminary report

Published: 23 February 2018

Sequence of events

On 20 January 2018, at about 1645 Eastern Daylight-saving Time,[1] a Cessna 182P aircraft, registered VH-TSA, departed The Vale airstrip, Sheffield, Tasmania, for a private flight to a private airstrip at Tomahawk, Tasmania. The flight was a distance of 79 NM, tracking to the east‑north‑east at 3,500 ft above mean sea level (AMSL) and was conducted under the visual flight rules.[2] On board were the pilot occupying the front left seat and a passenger (also a qualified pilot), seated in the front right seat.

The pilot broadcast on the Multicom frequency when the aircraft was 10 NM from, and inbound to, the destination airstrip. Recorded data showed that the aircraft commenced a descent from its cruising altitude of 3,500 ft at 1712. The pilot reported that he sighted the airstrip after descending to about 1,000 ft AMSL. There was no windsock at the airstrip. The pilot anticipated that the wind would be from the same north‑westerly direction they reported encountering during the flight, and therefore decided to land towards the north-west.

The pilot conducted a number of orbits (Figure 1) and later reported manoeuvring the aircraft prior to approaching the runway because the aircraft was too high and its groundspeed was faster than normal for the approach.

Figure 1: Recorded aircraft track

Figure 1: Recorded aircraft track

Source: AvPlan data – annotated by ATSB

At about 1720, a witness at the property saw and heard the aircraft operating south-east of the airstrip. A second witness, who was standing between the house and airstrip, then saw the aircraft approaching the runway heading in a westerly direction.

One of the witnesses was concerned that the pilot was attempting to land the aircraft towards the west, with a tailwind estimated to be about 15 kt. He drove his vehicle onto the runway towards the approaching aircraft, with headlights on and hazards lights flashing, in an attempt to communicate to the pilot to abort the landing.

The pilot thought the driver was indicating where to land and continued the approach. As the aircraft continued towards him, the driver vacated the runway.

Tyre marks on the grass showed that the aircraft first touched down 433 m beyond the runway threshold, with 284 m of runway remaining. The aircraft bounced several times along the airstrip before the pilot initiated a go-around, applying full power, to which the engine appears to have responded normally. The pilot reported raising the aircraft’s nose and the aircraft commenced climbing, however it collided with a tree and terrain beyond the end of the runway. The aircraft came to rest on its right side (Figures 2 and 3).

The passenger sustained fatal injuries and the pilot was seriously injured. The aircraft was substantially damaged.

Figure 2: Accident site of Cessna 182P aircraft, VH-TSA

Figure 2: Accident site of Cessna 182P aircraft, VH-TSA

Source: ATSB

Pilot information

The pilot held a current Private Pilot (Aeroplane) Licence issued by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority on 17 February 2016, a single‑engine aeroplane class rating, and a manual propeller pitch control design feature endorsement, as required for the flight.

The pilot also held a Class 2 Aviation Medical Certificate valid until 8 November 2019 with restrictions, including that vision correction must be worn and reading correction was to be available while exercising the privileges of the licence. In conjunction with a flight review conducted on 18 December 2017, the pilot had successfully completed an operational check of his vision following eye surgery.

The pilot had about 560 hours total aeronautical experience.

The passenger also held a current Private Pilot (Aeroplane) Licence and Class 2 Aviation Medical Certificate. The passenger had about 1,280 hours total aeronautical experience.

Aircraft information

The Cessna Aircraft Company 182P is a four-seat, high‑wing, single-engine aircraft equipped with fixed tricycle landing gear. The aircraft was powered by a Teledyne Continental Motors O-470-S engine and fitted with a McCauley two-blade, constant-speed propeller.

VH-TSA, serial number 182-64969, was a 1976-model 182P aircraft, recorded as being manufactured in the United States in 1977. It was first registered in Australia in 1978 and registration was transferred to the current operator in 2012. The aircraft’s total time in service was 6,160 hours.

The aircraft was operated in the private category.

Airstrip

The runway was 717 m long, orientated in a direction of 281° magnetic, and had a short grass surface. The runway sloped down towards the west at an average slope of 1.5° for the first 500 m, and was then level. A shorter runway heading 050°/230° intersected the main runway just east of its midpoint. White plastic markers indicated the eastern and western thresholds and the crossing runway intersection. There was no windsock at the airstrip.

Weather

The aircraft tracked east-north-east to Tomahawk, and the pilot reported having a westerly tailwind of 18 kt during the cruise. At the landing airstrip, witnesses reported an easterly wind of about 15 kt at the time of the accident. There was high overcast cloud.

Recorded data

The aircraft was not equipped with a flight data or cockpit voice recorder, nor was it required to be. However, the aircraft was fitted with a GPS that could record data. The aircraft’s track was also recorded on a personal device carried in the aircraft (Figure 1). The last data for the flight was recorded at 1731.

Wreckage and impact information

Examination of the accident site and aircraft wreckage indicated that the aircraft’s right wing struck the branch of a tree 5.6 m above and about 36 m beyond the end of the runway.

The right wing strut fractured and separated from the aircraft and the wing failed, but remained connected to the fuselage. The aircraft subsequently rolled to the right and pitched nose-down. The propeller and the front of the engine struck the ground and the aircraft rotated about the impact point before coming to rest on its right side. During the impact sequence, the left wing strut fractured at the fuselage and the left wing came to rest on top of the right wing (Figure 3).

Fuel leaked from aircraft’s ruptured wing fuel tanks, but there was no fire.

Examination of the aircraft did not identify any pre-existing faults and the pilot reported that the aircraft, including the engine, was operating normally at the time of the accident. The bending and impact marks on the propeller blades indicated that the engine was producing significant power when the blades struck the ground.

The right flap detached following impact with the tree and the left flap was extended. The flap actuator extension indicated that the flaps were in the fully extended position – 40° flap.

The lap sash and shoulder strap of both seatbelts were fastened at impact.

Figure 3: Damage to VH-TSA

Figure 3: Damage to Cessna 182P, VH-TSA

Source: ATSB

Continuing investigation

The investigation is continuing and will include examination of the following:

  • electronic data
  • aircraft and site survey data
  • forecast and actual weather conditions
  • pilot qualifications and experience
  • survivability.

 

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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.

 

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  1. Eastern Daylight-saving Time (EDT): Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) + 11 hours.
  2. Visual flight rules (VFR): a set of regulations that permit a pilot to operate an aircraft only in weather conditions generally clear enough to allow the pilot to see where the aircraft is going.
General details
Date: 20 January 2018   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1731 AEST   Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Tomahawk   Investigation phase: Final report: Dissemination  
State: Tasmania   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
Release date: 15 February 2019   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Fatal  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model 182  
Aircraft registration VH-TSA  
Serial number 18264969  
Type of operation General Aviation  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point The Vale airstrip, Sheffield, Tasmania  
Destination Tomahawk, Tasmania  
Last update 15 February 2019