Aviation safety investigations & reports

Collision with water involving a Yakovlev Yak-52, VH-PAE, near South Stradbroke Island, Queensland, on 5 June 2019

Investigation number:
Status: Active
Investigation in progress
Phase: Final report: External review Read more information on this investigation phase


Update: 9 June 2020

The investigation into the collision with water involving a Yakovlev Yak-52, VH-PAE, near South Stradbroke Island, Queensland, on 5 June 2019 is continuing.

The investigation is currently in the ‘Examination and analysis’ phase. During this phase, evidence is reviewed and evaluated to determine its relevance, validity, credibility and relationship to other evidence and to the occurrence.

ATSB investigators have so far gathered and analysed numerous information sources including:

  • air traffic control radar data
  • recovered aircraft wreckage
  • aircraft maintenance information
  • pilot qualifications, experience, and medical history
  • interviews with subject matter experts and witnesses
  • weather conditions.

Refer to the General details table below for the anticipated completion date.

Preliminary Report

Preliminary report published 19 July 2019

Sequence of events

On 5 June 2019, a Yakovlev Aircraft Factories Yak-52, registered VH-PAE, was conducting a private flight from Southport airfield, Queensland. The aircraft departed the airfield at about 0945 Eastern Standard Time (EST),[1] with a pilot and one passenger on board. The flight was intended to take about 30 minutes, and include a low-level scenic flight north along the coast from Broadbeach to the Jumpinpin channel area, and then seawards off Jumpinpin for some aerobatic manoeuvres, before returning to Southport airfield (Figure 1). A second passenger was waiting at the airfield to complete a similar trip once the aircraft had returned.

When the aircraft had not returned by the designated time, the second passenger became concerned and started asking members at the Southport Flying Club if they had heard anything. At about 1310, a representative from the club contacted Airservices Australia about the overdue aircraft and at 1400, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s Joint Rescue Coordination Centre initiated search and rescue operations. At about 1630, part of the propeller was located on the eastern side of South Stradbroke Island. In the following days, additional wreckage was also recovered from the same location, as well as the pilot and passenger, both of whom had been fatally injured.

Figure 1: Map highlighting locations of interest for the proposed flight of VH-PAE

Figure 1: Map highlighting locations of interest for the proposed flight of VH-PAE. Source: Google earth, annotated by the ATSB

Source: Google earth, annotated by the ATSB

Pilot information

The pilot held a current Private Pilot Licence (Aeroplane) issued on 23 May 2016. The pilot also held a Class 2 Aviation Medical Certificate that was valid until 1 May 2021. The available information from the pilot’s logbook indicated that he had about 490 hours total aeronautical experience, including 38 hours in VH-PAE. The pilot had received both a spinning and aerobatic endorsement in January 2019.

Aircraft information

The Yakovlev Aircraft Factories Yak-52 was an all-metal, two-seat, low-wing aircraft, powered by an air-cooled radial M-14P engine driving a two-bladed, variable-pitch wooden propeller. VH-PAE (Figure 2) (serial number 822001) was manufactured in 1982 and first registered with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority on 5 April 2017. The aircraft was registered to the pilot on 5 July 2018.

The most recent entry on the maintenance release was 5 days prior to the accident (on 31 May 2019) and showed that the aircraft had accumulated 1,164.2 hours’ total time‑in‑service.

Figure 2: VH-PAE

Figure 2: VH-PAE. Source: Matthew Coughlin

Source: Matthew Coughlin

Wreckage information

The items of wreckage recovered were taken to a secure facility by the Queensland Police Service for examination by the ATSB. These items included:

  • a section of the left side of the fuselage and the tail section (Figure 3)
  • a section of the right wing
  • two seat cushions
  • pneumatic system cylinders
  • a number of wooden propeller pieces.

The initial examination found that the tail of the aircraft exhibited significant damage on the vertical and right horizontal stabilisers, and it had remained attached to the fuselage by flight control cables. The significant disruption to the aircraft was indicative of a high-speed impact.

The ATSB removed a number of components from the wreckage for further examination, including various instruments from the fuselage section. The aircraft was not equipped with a flight data or cockpit voice recorder, nor was it required to be.

Figure 3: Some of the recovered pieces of VH-PAE

Figure 3: Some of the recovered pieces of VH-PAE. Source: ATSB

Source: ATSB

Ongoing investigation

The investigation is continuing and will include consideration of the following:

  • recovered aircraft components
  • aircraft maintenance documentation
  • pilot qualifications, experience, and medical history
  • weather conditions
  • witness observations
  • research and similar occurrences.


The ATSB acknowledges the support of the Queensland Police Service for their assistance during this investigation.



The information contained in this preliminary report is released in accordance with section 25 of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 and is derived from the initial investigation of the occurrence. Readers are cautioned that new evidence will become available as the investigation progresses that will enhance the ATSB's understanding of the accident as outlined in this report. As such, no analysis or findings are included in this update.



  1. Eastern Standard Time (EST): Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) + 10 hours.
General details
Date: 05 June 2019   Investigation status: Active  
Time: 10:00 EST   Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): near South Stradbroke Island   Investigation phase: Final report: External review  
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
Release date: 19 July 2019   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Preliminary    
Anticipated completion: 4th Quarter 2021    

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Yakovlev Aircraft Factories  
Aircraft model Yak-52  
Aircraft registration VH-PAE  
Serial number 822001  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Departure point Southport airfield, Queensland  
Last update 05 August 2021