ATSB releases preliminary report into fatal survey aircraft accident

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has released a preliminary report from the ongoing investigation into an accident involving a geophysical survey aircraft west of Norseman, Western Australia on 3 March 2022.

The report details factual information established in the investigation’s early evidence collection phase, and contains no analysis or findings, which will be detailed in the investigation’s final report.

The aircraft, a Cessna U206G modified for low-level geophysical survey, had departed Kalgoorlie to a survey site about 120 km west of Norseman with the pilot the sole occupant on board.

The aircraft began its survey pattern at about 1252, tracking back and forth over the area at about 25 m (82 ft) above ground level. At 1343, the aircraft’s final GPS position showed it heading west at 116 kt, at about the intended survey height.

The alarm was raised when the aircraft did not return to Kalgoorlie by the expected time.

During subsequent search operations, the accident site was located in dense bushland 124 km west of Norseman, with the pilot confirmed to have been fatally injured.

On deploying to the accident site, ATSB transport safety investigators determined that the point of impact indicated the aircraft initially struck trees in an upright, but relatively steep nose-down attitude. The aircraft then impacted the ground on its left side and continued through the bush in a southerly direction, coming to rest about 45 m from the initial point of impact.

“ATSB investigators found no indications of pre-impact structural failures, and were able to establish continuity of the aircraft’s flight controls, while propeller damage and strike marks observed in the trees indicated the engine was producing power at the time of impact,” said ATSB Director Transport Safety Dr Mike Walker

“There was no indication of fire in the wreckage trail, either in the bushland or aircraft components, however the remainder of the aircraft was almost entirely destroyed by a post-impact fire.”

Along with its survey of the accident site and recovery of key components for further analysis, the ATSB has conducted interviews, and collected aircraft, operator and pilot records and documentation.

“As we progress, the ATSB will further review documentation and records, and the retrieved aircraft components,” Dr Walker continued.

The investigation will also further analyse the flight path information from the aircraft’s GPS tracking device, and review the risk controls in place for low-level survey work.

“A final report will be released at the conclusion of the investigation,” Dr Walker concluded.

“However, should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate and timely safety action can be taken.”

Read the report: AO-2022-011 Collision with terrain involving Cessna U206G, VH-JVR 124 km west of Norseman, Western Australia, on 3 March 2022

Last update 26 May 2022

Preliminary report

Collision with terrain involving Cessna U206G, VH-JVR 124 km west of Norseman, Western Australia, on 3 March 2022