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Given the heightened interest, the ATSB has released an interim report on progress with its investigation into the tragic Benalla fatal accident, emphasising its complexity due to destruction of the aircraft and the need to carefully address all the safety issues.

The ATSB Preliminary Report into this six-fatality accident in a Piper Cheyenne was released on 31 August to provide early safety advice and warning to the industry.

The aircraft tracked from Bankstown to the Benalla area via Jervis Bay and the pilot had planned to conduct a Global Positioning System (GPS) approach at Benalla. The investigation determined that the aircraft's track was a consistent 3.83 degrees left of the direct track prior to commencing the GPS approach. The aircraft was equipped with a radio altimeter and an approved GPS receiver. The pilot was qualified to track and conduct instrument approaches using the GPS.

The investigation is continuing and, among other things, includes aspects relating to:
the operation of the aircraft; previous flights; aircraft maintenance history; post mortem and toxicology findings; air traffic control system and its operation; availability of ground-based navigation aids; statements from witnesses and other involved persons; GPS carried and GPS software; and electronic devices including mobile phones.

At this stage there is no evidence that the flight was affected by electronic interference. There was adequate satellite coverage for the operation of the GPS. The operation of the approved GPS carried for this flight, using the installed software, does not require manual input of waypoint position coordinates.

The investigation of this accident is necessarily complex due to the destruction of the aircraft during the high speed impact and post-impact fire (see pictures attached and at and it will take several months to methodically analyse the available evidence so that all possible causal factors are identified together with safety issues.

In accordance with ATSB practice, as safety issues are identified, the ATSB makes recommendations to, and liaises with, organisations best able to effect change in order to enhance safety. These safety actions are not held until the final report is released.

The ATSB continues to liaise with the Victorian State Coroner who has been briefed on this report.

The ATSB appreciates the support of the industry and community in continuing to provide information that may assist its investigation and prevent another accident.

Media contact: 1800 020 616
Last update 01 April 2011