Aviation safety investigations & reports

Runway excursion and collision with terrain involving Van's RV-6A, VH-OAJ, Somersby, NSW, on 18 March 2018

Investigation number:
AO-2018-025
Status: Completed
Investigation completed
Phase: Final report: Dissemination Read more information on this investigation phase

Final Report

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What happened

On 18 March 2018, the pilot of a Van’s RV-6A aircraft, registered VH-OAJ, was conducting a private flight from Camden to Somersby, New South Wales. During landing, the aircraft initially touched down, then bounced several times, overran the end of the runway, and impacted the side of a watercourse. The aircraft sustained substantial damage. The pilot sustained serious injuries and succumbed to his injuries 2 days later.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that the aircraft touched down at a high speed and at a point on the runway that reduced the available stopping distance and there were no indications of an attempt at a go‑around. As a result, the aircraft overran the runway and subsequently collided with terrain.

The ATSB also found that the aeroplane landing area had a watercourse at the end of the runway, which the aircraft subsequently impacted in the overrun. The presence of the watercourse increased the risk of aircraft damage and serious injury to the pilot by stopping the aircraft significantly faster than would be the case if the area were clear of obstacles.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s Civil Aviation Advisory Publication (CAAP 92-1(1)) on aeroplane landing areas provided guidance on obstacles rising above the runway end and adjacent to the runway. However, it did not contain guidance to airfield owners and pilots on safe runway overrun areas and their importance in the event of a runway excursion.

What has been done as a result

The ATSB had issued a safety recommendation to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to publish guidance for the inclusion of a safe runway overrun area in their regulatory advisory document for Aeroplane Landing Areas.

Safety message

This investigation highlights the importance of pilot preparedness to conduct a go-around if the landing criteria are not met or if there are indications of an unstable landing.

Pilots should take into consideration the obstacles beyond the runway and assess how this may affect their preparedness for landing or conducting a go-around.

Where possible, ALA owners should also consider the inclusion of runway overrun areas. Obstacles in the overrun area at the end of the runway may increase the risk of aircraft damage and injury to persons should a runway excursion occur.

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The occurrence

Context

Safety analysis

Findings

Safety issues and actions

Pilot details

Sources and submissions

Preliminary report

Sequence of events

On 18 March 2018, at about 0909 Eastern Daylight-saving Time,[1] a Van’s Aircraft Inc. RV-6A, registered VH-OAJ (OAJ), took off from the Somersby aeroplane landing area (ALA), New South Wales, with only the pilot on board for a 20 minute flight to Camden. While at Camden, the pilot assisted with activities at a gliding club located on the airport. At about 1546, OAJ took off from Camden on a return flight to Somersby (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Flight path of VH-OAJ from Camden Airport to the Somersby ALA

Figure 1: Flight path of VH-OAJ from Camden Airport to the Somersby ALA. Image shows OAJ’s flight path in yellow. The approach to the Somersby ALA and landing flight path are inset.
Source: Google earth and OzRunways, annotated by the ATSB

Image shows OAJ’s flight path in yellow. The approach to the Somersby ALA and landing flight path are inset. Source: Google earth and OzRunways, annotated by the ATSB

Approaching the Somersby ALA from the south, the pilot conducted a circuit around the airfield before descending for a landing to the north on runway 35 (Figure 1 insert).[2] A witness located at the ALA, who was very familiar with the airfield and the aircraft, reported that he observed OAJ approaching faster than normal. The touch down point was also further down the runway than would be expected for a landing in that direction. The aircraft was also seen to bounce several times during the landing. The aircraft then ran off the end of the runway before impacting the side of a small watercourse and coming to rest (Figure 2). The witness did not observe OAJ run off the runway end.

As a result of the impact, the pilot was hospitalised with serious injuries. Two days later the pilot died from his injuries.

Figure 2: View of the accident site showing VH-OAJ, looking back along the runway

Figure 2: View of the accident site showing VH-OAJ, looking back along the runway. Source: ATSB

Source: ATSB

Pilot information

The pilot held a Private Pilot (Aeroplane) Licence that was issued on 22 February 1971 and last completed a review on 2 May 2017 in OAJ. The pilot held a valid Class 2 Aviation Medical Certificate and was required to wear distance vision correction and have vision correction available for reading while exercising the privileges of the licence.

Aircraft information

The Van’s Aircraft Inc. (Van’s) RV-6A is a kit-built, two-seat aircraft with a low-wing and fixed undercarriage. Construction of OAJ was completed in 1998 and it was first registered with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority on 3 June 1998. The accident pilot became the registration holder on 7 May 2007. OAJ was fitted with a Textron Lycoming O-320 piston engine.

Wreckage and impact information

The ATSB identified marks on the runway consistent with the wheels on OAJ, at the initial touchdown point described by the witness. Multiple other marks consistent with the left and right wheels skidding were identified near the end of the runway (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Northern end of runway 35. Marks in the surface of the runway consistent with wheel skid and the tail of VH‑OAJ visible in the background

Figure 3: Northern end of runway 35. Marks in the surface of the runway consistent with wheel skid and the tail of VH‑OAJ visible in the background. The white markers indicate the extent of the identified wheel skid marks. Source: ATSB

The white markers indicate the extent of the identified wheel skid marks. Source: ATSB

The on-site examination of OAJ identified that the flaps were in the fully deployed position and all flight controls were functional. The brakes were tested and found to be operational. Damage to the aircraft included:

  • crushing damage to the right wingtip consistent with impact with the watercourse
  • fracture and deformation of the engine mounts
  • crushing of the propeller spinner
  • buckling deformation of the fuselage behind the cockpit
  • the control rod for the right flap was fractured, but consistent with other impact damage
  • the inboard rib of the right wing had cracked, leaking some fuel.

The exact quantity of fuel on board at the time of the accident could not be determined due to leakage of some fuel, but both the left and right tanks were near full when examined.

Ongoing investigation

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

  • recorded data
  • witness reports
  • pilot medical information
  • factors that increased the potential for serious injury from the accident.

 

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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. The runway number represents the magnetic heading of the runway in tens of degrees rounded to the nearest unit. Thus, runway 35 has a magnetic heading of approximately 350°.

Safety Issue

Go to AO-2018-025-SI-01 -

CASA ALA guidance on runway overrun areas

The Civil Aviation Advisory Publication for Aeroplane Landing Areas (92-1(1)) did not have guidance for the inclusion of a safe runway overrun area.

Safety issue details
Issue number: AO-2018-025-SI-01
Who it affects: All owners and users of ALAs
Status: Safety action pending
General details
Date: 18 March 2018   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1612 EDT   Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Somersby (ALA)   Investigation phase: Final report: Dissemination  
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Runway excursion  
Release date: 22 October 2019   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Fatal  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Amateur Built Aircraft  
Aircraft model Van's RV-6A  
Aircraft registration VH-OAJ  
Serial number Q126  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Camden, NSW  
Destination Somersby, NSW  
Last update 24 October 2019