Aviation safety investigations & reports

Wheels up landing, involving Nanchang CJ-6, VH-ALO, Barwon Heads Airport, Vic on 6 February 2016

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Final report

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On 6 February 2016, at about 1250 Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), the pilot of a Nanchang CJ-6 aircraft, registered VH-ALO (ALO), was completing the first in a series of formation ‘combat’ joy flights booked for that day. The ‘combat’ flight, which consisted of a pilot and passenger on board each of two Nanchang aircraft (ALO and Number 2), had departed Barwon Heads airport, Victoria, about twenty-five minutes earlier. The pilot of ALO acted as the leader aircraft (or ‘Number 1’)[1] for the formation flight.

At the chosen ‘break-point’[2] on upwind, Number 2 positioned ahead of ALO in the circuit. The two Nanchang aircraft remained in this single-file sequence behind a Pipistrel aircraft, which had joined the circuit on the downwind leg for runway 36. The Pipistrel aircraft landed, then rolled through to the end of the runway in order to exit; Number 2 followed suit. As ALO touched down, third in a close landing sequence, the pilot realised that they had not completed the pre-landing checks, and the landing gear had not been extended. The aircraft slid along the sealed runway, coming to a stop just off the centreline (Figure 1). The pilot and passenger were not injured, and were able to safely egress. The aircraft sustained damage to the propeller, engine and the underside of the fuselage.

During the approach and landing, they had kept their attention on the spacing of the two aircraft ahead and been distracted from conducting the pre-landing checks.

The combination of factors distracting the pilot’s attention during the approach and landing led to the downwind and pre-landing checks overlooked. The lack of any landing gear warning system fitted to the aircraft, which would have alerted the pilot to the incorrect configuration, left no protection between the distraction and the final action.

According to an Interruptions / distractions briefing note by the Flight Safety Foundation, interruptions and distractions usually result from the following factors:

  • flight crew-ATC, flight deck or flight crew-cabin crew communication
  • head down work, and
  • response to an abnormal condition or unexpected situation.

Further information is available at:

Flight Safety Foundation Approach-and-landing accident reduction Briefing note 2-4, Interruptions / distractions.

Research conducted by the ATSB identified 325 occurrences between 1997 and 2004, which involved distractions. Of these, 54 occurred during the landing phase of flight.

ATSB (2006). Dangerous Distraction: An examination of accidents and incidents involving pilot distraction in Australia between 1997 and 2004. (Research and Analysis report B2004/0324).


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 48


[1]     In an echelon formation, number 1 (ALO in this instance) is the lead aircraft, and makes the decisions for the formation and also makes and responds to all radio communication for the formation; each individual pilot is still responsible for their own aircraft’s safety.

[2]     The position in the circuit, where the pilot in the lead aircraft (ALO) in the formation determines that the formation will manoeuvre into single file, usually with Number 1 in the lead.

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General details
Date: 06 February 2016   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1250 ESuT   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Barwon Heads/Geelong (ALA)    
State: Victoria   Occurrence type: Wheels up landing  
Release date: 27 May 2016   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Nanchang Aircraft  
Aircraft model CJ-6  
Aircraft registration VH-ALO  
Serial number 4532002  
Type of operation Charter  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Barwon Heads, Vic.  
Destination Barwon Heads, Vic.  
Last update 14 November 2018