Aviation safety investigations & reports

Loss of control involving Cessna 152, VH-JIW, 34 km east-south-east of Archerfield Airport, Queensland, on 28 May 2019

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed
Phase: Final report: Dissemination Read more information on this investigation phase

Final Report

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What happened

On 28 May 2019, a Cessna 152, registered VH-JIW, was being operated by Basair Aviation College on a training flight from Archerfield Airport, Queensland. On board was a student pilot on their first flight, and a flight instructor.

During the training flight, the instructor was demonstrating the use of trim, with the student flying the aircraft. At about 2,000 ft above ground level, the aircraft abruptly pitched down and entered into a dive. The instructor took control of the aircraft and recovered from the descent at about 400 ft, about 25 seconds after the dive commenced. Subsequently the flight instructor elected to terminate the lesson and returned the aircraft to Archerfield Airport.

The instructor sustained minor injuries and the student was uninjured. An examination of the aircraft identified significant structural damage to the right horizontal stabiliser, which was indicative of in-flight overload during dive recovery. In addition, the instructor inadvertently bent the throttle control in the cockpit, which made movement of the control stiff but still operable.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that the student released the control wheel leading to the aircraft entering into a steep dive. The flight instructor had applied a large amount of nose-down trim during the course of instructing the lesson, resulting in a strong nose-down tendency of the aircraft when the controls were released. The flying school’s instructor guide did not specify a limit of trim input for such exercises.

It was also determined that the instructor’s hands were not in a ready position to take control in the event of any mishandling by the student pilot. The recovery by the instructor was likely further delayed after sustaining a head injury during the in-flight upset, and initially being unsure about what had happened and how to then recover the aircraft.

What has been done as a result

The operator has revised its training procedures for use of trim to include detailed instructor demonstrations prior to the student practicing manoeuvres. This ensures the student understands the required use of trim and the effect it has on the aircraft flight characteristics to maintain flight attitudes. The operator has also revised its training procedures to use a consistent moderate amount of trim.

Safety message

The first stages of flight training can be an exciting yet daunting period for a student. Any uncertainty should be raised with the instructor before taking action in case it leads to an unsafe situation. Conversely, instructors need to account for the potential for the student to carry out unexpected actions. This means that lessons should be conducted under the lowest risk conditions that still impart the lesson intent.

Download final report
[Download  PDF: 331KB]

The investigation

General details
Date: 28 May 2019   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1125 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 34 km east-south-east of Archerfield Airport   Investigation phase: Final report: Dissemination  
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Loss of control  
Release date: 15 October 2020   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Minor  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model 152  
Aircraft registration VH-JIW  
Serial number 152-81439  
Operator Basair Aviation College  
Type of operation Flying Training  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Archerfield Airport, Queensland  
Destination Archerfield Airport, Queensland  
Last update 15 October 2020