Wirestrikes pose an on-going problem to aerial agricultural operations. There are 180 wirestrike accidents in the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) database for the period between 2001 and 2010. Of these, 100 involved agricultural flying. Research by the ATSB has shown that 63 per cent of pilots were aware of the position of the wire before they struck it.
This publication describes recent aerial agricultural wirestrike accidents. In all these cases, the aircraft struck a powerline that was known to the pilot. In many of these accidents, the pilot was not completely focused on the immediate task of flying due to a change in plans.
This publication also explains a number of strategies developed by the Aerial Agriculture Association of Australia (AAAA) and the ATSB to help agricultural pilots manage the on-going risk of wirestrikes during spraying operations. These include:
- ensure you are physically and mentally fit to fly
- set client expectations so that they are clear that safety comes first
- conduct a thorough briefing and study a detailed map of the area before the flight
- conduct an aerial reconnaissance before spraying and conduct an extra aerial reconnaissance before the clean-up run
- reassess the risks when plans change
- avoid unnecessary distractions and refocus when distracted
- be aware of vigilance limitations
- don’t rely on your ability to react in time to avoid a wire
- actively look for and remind yourself of wires
- be aware of and manage pressures
- have a systematic approach to safely managing wires.