Aviation safety investigations & reports

Collision with terrain involving Aquila AT01, VH-OIS, 27 km south of Orange, New South Wales, on 4 November 2020

Investigation number:
AO-2020-059
Status: Active
Investigation in progress

Update

Sequence of events

On 4 November 2020, at about 1430 Eastern Daylight-saving Time,[1the student pilot and instructor of an Aquila AT01 aircraft, registered VH-OIS, departed Bankstown Airport, New South Wales on a training flight. The purpose of the flight was a final check for the student pilot prior to conducting a Commercial Pilot (Aeroplane) Licence flight test, planned for later in the month. The flight route consisted of a departure to the west over the Blue Mountains, before turning north‑west to Orange Airport.

Flight tracking data (Figure 1 blue line) obtained from FlightAware indicated that the aircraft arrived at Orange just prior to 1600, where circuits were conducted to runway 29 and runway 11 for about 30 minutes. On completion of the circuits, a full-stop landing was performed, and the aircraft was taxied to a parking bay where it remained for about 10 minutes. While parked at the bay, the instructor was observed by a witness to be consulting flight charts.

At about 1640, the aircraft departed Orange and initially maintained the runway 11 upwind track for about 10 NM (18.5 km) before the track turned south, toward the Coombing Park aeroplane landing area (ALA),[2near Carcoar. The Coombing Park ALA was 27 km south of Orange and had a 1,200 m long runway consisting of short dry grass, with an east‑west direction (07/25).

On arrival overhead the ALA, two orbits of the airstrip were flown at about 500 feet above ground level. Following the two orbits, the aircraft was flown in a circuit pattern consistent with a touch‑and-go to runway 07. At the point of expected touchdown on runway 07, no further flight data was available, likely due to terrain shielding.

Figure 1: Aircraft flight path

Source: Google earth and FlightAware, annotated by the ATSB

No eyewitnesses observed the aircraft land and subsequently take-off from runway 07 at Coombing Park, although one witness heard the aircraft approaching from that direction. The witness described the aircraft engine as sounding normal prior to the sound fading, consistent with the aircraft flying away. However, after no more than 10 seconds later, at about 1709, the witness heard the aircraft colliding with terrain.

About 2 hours later, the wreckage was found with both occupants fatally injured and the aircraft destroyed. The aircraft had impacted the bank of a small dam, located on rising terrain about 600 m beyond the end of runway 07 and about 30° to the left of the runway centreline (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Accident site overview

Source: ATSB

Meteorological information

The Bureau of Meteorology routine report of the weather conditions at Orange Airport at the time of the accident included an 11 kt wind from the west, and visibility greater than 10 km with no cloud detected. The recorded temperature was 23 °C with a dewpoint [3of 8 °C.

Wreckage examination

Examination of the aircraft’s flight controls, engine, and aircraft structure did not identify any pre‑existing faults or failures. However, some components were retained by the ATSB for further examination. In addition, evidence of fuel spillage on-site indicated that the aircraft had fuel onboard and the presence of fuel in the fuel filters indicated the engine had fuel supply at the time of the accident.  

Further investigation

To-date, the ATSB has examined the aircraft wreckage, interviewed witnesses, gathered personal electronic devices and aircraft components from the accident site. The investigation is continuing and will include consideration of the following:

  • analysis of stored electronic data from personal electronic devices
  • evaluating witness information
  • examination of the retained aircraft components
  • aircraft maintenance history
  • aircraft weight and balance, and performance
  • meteorological conditions
  • impact sequence and survivability
  • flight planning
  • operator policies and procedures
  • the conduct of similar flight training operations
  • instructor and student pilot qualifications, experience and medical information.

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

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  1. Eastern Standard Time (EST): Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) + 10 hours.
  2. Coombing Park ALA is an area that includes ground suitable for the conduct of take-off and landing and associated aeroplane operations. In contrast to certified aerodromes, ALA’s are privately owned and not available to be used by the public unless prior permission to land has been granted by the owner.
  3. Dewpoint is the temperature at which water vapour in the air starts to condense as the air cools. It is used, among other things, to monitor the risk of aircraft carburettor icing or likelihood of fog at an aerodrome.
General details
Date: 04 November 2020   Investigation status: Active  
Time: 17:09   Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 2 km south of Carcoar   Investigation phase: Evidence collection  
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
  Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Pending   Highest injury level: Fatal  
Anticipated completion: 4th Quarter 2021    

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Aquila Aviation by Excellence  
Aircraft model AT01  
Aircraft registration VH-OIS  
Serial number AT01-250  
Operator Soar Aviation Aircraft Holding  
Type of operation Flying Training  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Departure point Bankstown Airport, New South Wales  
Destination Bankstown Airport, New South Wales  
Last update 12 January 2021