Aviation occurrence briefs

Flight crew incapacitation involving a Pilatus PC-12, 185 km SW of Wiluna, WA, on 12 August 2018

Status: Completed
Investigation completed


Occurrence Briefs are concise reports that detail the facts surrounding a transport safety occurrence, as received in the initial notification and any follow-up enquiries. They provide an opportunity to share safety messages in the absence of an investigation.

What happened

On 12 August 2018, a Pilatus PC-12 was being used to transport a patient from Wiluna, Western Australia (WA) to Jandakot, WA. It departed Wiluna at about 2053 Western Standard Time.

About 40 minutes into the flight, the pilot felt ill and vomited. During this time, the autopilot was engaged. After vomiting, he felt considerably better and was able to continue the flight to Jandakot. The only time that the pilot was not monitoring the flight instruments was whilst he was physically ill.

The pilot took sick leave for the rest of his shift and a Designated Aviation Medical Examiner (DAME)[1] checked him before he returned to work again.

It was reported that the pilot had been unwell for the previous few days and had reported for duty on the day of the incident saying that he felt well again.

Safety action

As a result, of this occurrence, the aircraft operator has advised the ATSB that they are taking the following safety actions:

  • The operator will update their manuals to reinforce the need to take the time to recover from illness. If a pilot reports in sick at the start of a shift, they will be required to remain on sick leave for the rest of the shift unless a DAME deems that they are fit for work. They will incorporate this change into the next edition of their manuals, which they will publish in due course.
  • The operator has already included this information in their pilots’ briefs and a formal written notification, by email, has been sent to all pilots in the organisation.

Safety message

This incident highlights the importance of flight crew being adequately recovered from illness before returning to work. This is particularly pertinent for single-pilot operations.

About this report

Decisions regarding whether to conduct an investigation, and the scope of an investigation, are based on many factors, including the level of safety benefit likely to be obtained from an investigation. For this occurrence, no investigation has been conducted and the ATSB did not verify the accuracy of the information. A brief description has been written using information supplied in the notification and any follow-up information in order to produce a short summary report, and allow for greater industry awareness of potential safety issues and possible safety actions.



  1. Designated aviation medical examiners (DAMEs) are practitioners approved to perform medical examinations to meet the provisions of the Civil Aviation Act 1998, the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988 and the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998.
General details
Date: 12 August 2018   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 130 WST    
Location   (show map): 185 km SW of Wiluna    
State: Western Australia    
Release Date: 17 December 2018   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Pilatus Aircraft Ltd  
Aircraft model PC-12  
Type of operation Aerial Work  
Sector Turboprop  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Wiluna, WA  
Destination Jandakot, WA  
Last update 17 December 2018