Aviation safety investigations & reports

Loss of control and collision with terrain involving Cirrus SR22, VH-PDC, Orange Airport, NSW, on 15 May 2018

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

Final Report

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What happened

On 15 May 2018, at 1903 Eastern Standard Time, a Cirrus SR22 aircraft, registered VH‑PDC, collided with terrain at Orange Airport, New South Wales. The accident was a night training flight with one pilot (aircraft owner) and one flight instructor on board. The pilot and instructor were seriously injured and the aircraft destroyed.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that the pilot, who was conducting his first night training flight, likely became spatially disorientated during a go-around manoeuvre, which resulted in a loss of control at low level and collision with terrain.

The flight instructor did not intervene to take control of the aircraft during the go-around manoeuvre, because she was not aware the pilot had become spatially disorientated and was accustomed to directing the pilot to correct control problems. Inconsistent with Civil Aviation Safety Authority guidance, the instructor, who had previously instructed the pilot for his private instrument rating, did not provide a night flying demonstration before directing the pilot around the circuit.

Safety message

It is important for flight instructors to provide a demonstration when introducing a pilot to a new flight sequence or new flight environment. Time spent demonstrating the key points of a new sequence or environment will usually improve the learning process by ensuring that the development of a new skill is supported and preceded by knowledge and understanding from experience.

The flight instructor reported that for the delivery of future initial night flying training, she would conduct either a separate session of daytime flying training circuits prior to night, or deliver the training as day-into-night circuit training. She also commented that, prior to teaching night flying, flying training organisations should consider conducting refresher training in unusual attitude recoveries, irrespective of a pilot’s level of experience and qualifications.

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The occurrence


Safety analysis


General details

Sources and submissions

Terminology used in this report

Preliminary Report

Preliminary report published: 28 June 2018

Sequence of events

On 15 May 2018, at 1903 Eastern Standard Time,[1] a Cirrus SR22 aircraft, registered VH‑PDC, collided with terrain at Orange Airport, New South Wales. The accident was a night training flight with one pilot (aircraft owner) and one instructor on board. The pilot and instructor were seriously injured and the aircraft destroyed.

The pilot had a private instrument rating and the accident flight was the pilot’s first training flight for a night endorsement.[2] The pilot performed a pre-flight inspection of the aircraft in a hangar under lights and then moved the aircraft out of the hangar onto the apron. After the instructor arrived, a pre-flight briefing was held in the hangar, which included the effects of the night environment on depth perception and the procedural differences from daytime flying.

The pilot and instructor boarded the aircraft and completed all the checklist items on the multi‑function display. The aircraft was taxied for a departure from runway 11 and the pilot activated the runway lighting while taxiing. In addition to the runway lighting, precision approach path indicator (PAPI) lighting was also available.[3]

One touch-and-go[4] circuit was completed to runway 11 without incident. On the second circuit, when at about 500 ft above ground level on approach to land, the pilot noted the PAPI was displaying four-white lights. In response, the pilot steepened the approach and then observed two‑white and two-red lights. When the runway surface came into view in the aircraft landing lights, the pilot flared for the landing. The aircraft bounced and the pilot elected to apply full power and go-around, rather than attempt to continue with the landing.

When full power was applied, with full flap selected, the aircraft pitched up. As the pilot was transitioning his scan onto the instruments, the instructor repeatedly directed him to maintain wings level. The pilot felt the aircraft was rolling to the left and the runway lights appeared to the right.[5] Shortly after, the aircraft collided with the ground and came to rest inverted (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Cirrus SR22 registered VH-PDC wreckage

Figure 1: Cirrus SR22 registered VH-PDC wreckage. Source: ATSB

Source: ATSB

The pilot exited the aircraft after kicking out a window, at which stage the wings were alight and a grass fire had started. He then assisted the instructor with exiting. While moving the instructor clear, the pilot heard a canister discharge from inside the wreckage and about 1 minute later he heard what sounded like the aircraft parachute pyrotechnic activate.[6] Emergency services located at the airport immediately responded to the accident.

Closed-circuit television footage

Closed-circuit television footage from Orange Airport showed the aircraft rolling left at a low height above runway 11 and impact the ground on the north-east side of runway 11 at 1903. A fire ensued about 5 seconds after impact and about 9 minutes after impact a pyrotechnic device activated.

Ongoing investigation

The investigation is continuing and will include the following:

  • interviews with the pilot, instructor and any witnesses (preliminary interview with pilot completed and a preliminary statement has been provided by the instructor)
  • examination of aircraft recorded data
  • examination of the aircraft flight controls.


The information contained in this preliminary report 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 preliminary report. As such, no analysis or findings are included in this update.



  1. Eastern Standard Time (EST): Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) + 10 hours.
  2. A pilot who has a private instrument rating is authorised to operate at night under the instrument flight rules only if that pilot holds a night private instrument endorsement.
  3. PAPI is a visual aid that provides pilots with guidance on acquiring and maintaining the correct vertical approach path to a runway. The system consists of four side-by-side lights positioned to the side of the runway. At Orange, the lights are on the left side of runway 11 and runway 29. When the aircraft is on the desired approach path (3°), two red and two white lights will be visible. If more than two red lights appear, the aircraft is below the flight path and if more than two white lights are visible, the aircraft is above the flight path.
  4. A procedure whereby an aircraft lands and takes off without coming to a stop.
  5. The Cirrus SR22 aircraft’s propeller rotates clockwise, as viewed from the pilot’s seat. Therefore, an increase in power will increase the engine torque reaction and propeller slipstream. Without pilot input, the natural response from the aircraft is to roll and yaw to the left.
  6. The aircraft was fitted with the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS), which is a ballistic parachute recovery system. When the pilot activates the CAPS system, a rocket in the aft fuselage ignites and dislodges the CAPS cover. The rocket then extracts a deployment bag containing the parachute from the aircraft.


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General details
Date: 15 May 2018   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1903 AEST   Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Orange Airport   Investigation phase: Final report: Dissemination  
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Loss of control  
Release date: 06 June 2019   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Serious  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cirrus Design Corporation  
Aircraft model SR22  
Aircraft registration VH-PDC  
Serial number 4328  
Operator Intact Aviation  
Type of operation Flying Training  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Departure point Orange, NSW  
Destination Orange, NSW  
Last update 06 June 2019