Aviation safety investigations & reports

Collision with terrain involving Liberty Aerospace XL2, VH-XLK, 9 km north-east of Braidwood, New South Wales, on 6 August 2019

Investigation number:
AO-2019-040
Status: Active
Investigation in progress

Preliminary report

Preliminary report published: 8 October 2019

What happened

On 6 August 2019, at 1103 Eastern Standard Time,[1] a Liberty XL-2, registered VH-XLK (XLK), departed Moruya Airport, for a rural property near Braidwood, New South Wales (Figure 1). The pilot was the sole occupant and had been flying in company with another pilot and his aircraft on a social, multi-day touring flight of the New South Wales hinterland, alpine and southern coast regions.

The accompanying pilot landed his aircraft on a private landing area at the Braidwood property about 15 minutes prior to the arrival of XLK. That pilot advised the pilot of XLK that the landing area was undulating and not suitable for his aircraft type. At about 1126, witnesses on the ground (which included the accompanying pilot) observed XLK circling the landing area. On the second orbit, the aircraft was observed to slow and begin to lose height. At about 500 ft above ground level, and after crossing the marked end of the landing area, the left wing dropped and the aircraft entered a steep rotating descent. The pilot was unable to recover control of the aircraft before it impacted terrain.

Figure 1: Aircraft’s flight path and accident site location

 

Aircraft’s flight path and accident site location
Source: Google Earth. Modified by the ATSB

The witnesses at the landing area were first to arrive at the scene, however the pilot had sustained fatal injuries. The aircraft was destroyed.

Site and wreckage examination

The accident site was located in relatively flat and open farmland, approximately 9 km north-east of Braidwood (Figure 2). The ATSB conducted an examination of the site and wreckage and identified that the:

  • ground impact marks indicated that the aircraft had impacted terrain nose‑down, upright, with counter‑clockwise rotation
  • left wing separated from the airframe on impact with the terrain
  • flaps were in the retracted position.

No pre-impact defects were identified with the engine, flight controls or aircraft structure. The internal cabin fuel tank had ruptured and a quantity of fuel had leaked into the soil. There was no fire.

A damaged electronic flight bag was recovered from the accident site and an engine control unit was removed from the aircraft and taken to the ATSB’s technical facility in Canberra for examination.

Figure 2: Accident site

Accident site

Source: ATSB

Further investigation

The investigation is continuing and will include:

  • analysis of the downloaded data from the engine control unit and other electronic devices
  • examination of the aircraft flight instruments and a stabiliser trim component
  • examination of the pilot’s qualifications, experience and medical history
  • assessment of the aircraft’s flight performance characteristics
  • examination of aircraft maintenance and operational records.

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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 update. As such, no analysis or findings are included.

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  1. Eastern Standard Time (EST): Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) + 10 hours.

Summary

The ATSB is investigating a collision with terrain involving a Liberty Aerospace XL2 aircraft, registered VH-XLK, about 6 km north-east of Braidwood, New South Wales.

While manoeuvring over the airfield, the aircraft entered an uncontrolled state and collided with terrain in a neighbouring paddock. The aircraft was substantially damaged and the pilot, the sole occupant, sustained fatal injuries.

As part of the investigation, the ATSB will examine the wreckage and accident site, interview witnesses, obtain any available recorded data for analysis, and gather additional information.

A report will be released at the end of the investigation. Should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant stakeholders so appropriate and timely safety action can be taken.

General details
Date: 06 August 2019   Investigation status: Active  
Time: 11:27 EST   Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 9 km north east of Braidwood   Investigation phase: Examination and analysis  
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
Release date: 10 October 2019   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Pending   Highest injury level: Fatal  
Anticipated completion: 2nd Quarter 2020    

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Liberty Aerospace Incorporated  
Aircraft model XL-2  
Aircraft registration VH-XLK  
Serial number 0106  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Moruya Airport, NSW  
Destination Nerriga Road, Braidwood, NSW  
Last update 02 December 2019