Aviation safety investigations & reports

Pilot and crew incapacitation during flight, Cessna 172, VH-YXZ, Sellicks Beach region, South Australia, on 22 December 2019

Investigation number:
Status: Active
Investigation in progress


The ATSB is investigating a reported pilot and crew incapacitation involving a Cessna 172, VH-YXZ, near Sellicks Beach, South Australia (SA) on 22 December 2019.

At about 1545 CSuT, while carrying out aerial work at about 500 feet AMSL in the region of Sellicks Beach, the pilot and two crew members of the aircraft became ill, with symptoms including vomiting, light-headedness, dizziness, and loss of feeling in limbs. At that time, the flight had been conducted for about 4 hours through smoke from bushfires in the region. The pilot observed that the aircraft’s carbon monoxide indicator was displaying two black dots, indicating exposure to carbon monoxide. The pilot manoeuvred the aircraft and landed the aircraft safely at Parafield, SA. A medical examination conducted after the flight determined that the pilot and crew had experienced carbon monoxide poisoning. 

As part of the investigation, investigators will be interviewing the pilot and crew, and reviewing weather reports, aircraft maintenance information, and determinations relating to the smoke encountered, its origin, and its effect on the pilot and crew.

Should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate safety action can be taken.

A final report will be released at the conclusion of the investigation.

General details
Date: 22 December 2019   Investigation status: Active  
Time: 15:45 CSuT   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 44 km south Adelaide Airport (Sellicks Beach)   Investigation phase: Evidence collection  
State: South Australia   Occurrence type: Flight crew incapacitation  
  Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Pending   Highest injury level: None  
Anticipated completion: 4th Quarter 2020    

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model 172R  
Aircraft registration VH-YXZ  
Serial number 17280885  
Operator Bruce Hartwig Flying School  
Type of operation Aerial Work  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Parafield, South Australia  
Destination Parafield, South Australia  
Last update 06 July 2020