Aviation safety investigations & reports

Collision with terrain involving an Osprey 2 amphibian aircraft, VH-WID, near Maitland Airport, New South Wales, on 17 May 2020

Investigation number:
Status: Active
Investigation in progress

Preliminary report

Preliminary report published 26 June 2020

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 in this report.

The occurrence

On 17 May 2020, at 1002 Eastern Standard Time,[1] an amateur-built Osprey 2 amphibian aircraft, registered VH-WID, departed Maitland Airport, New South Wales on a private flight (Figure 1). The flight was intended as a test flight and the pilot was the sole occupant. This was the third flight for the aircraft, which was operating under a special certificate of airworthiness – experimental. This certificate required that 25 hours of flight-testing be conducted.

The aircraft took off to the south-west from runway 23[2] before turning left, with the intention to climb to 3,000 ft and conduct the flight-testing over the airfield.

Figure 1: VH-WID

Figure 1: VH-WID
Source: Aircraft owner

Source: Aircraft owner

About 3 minutes after the take-off, a number of people observed white smoke coming from the aircraft and a person on the ground informed the pilot over the radio about the smoke. The pilot replied that the engine was running rough and that the intent would be to return to the airport for a landing on runway 23. Witnesses then observed the aircraft circling while descending over the north of the airport.

Figure 2: Maitland Airport

Figure 2: Maitland Airpor .
Source: Google Earth, annotated by ATSB

Source: Google Earth, annotated by ATSB

At 1010, the pilot reported on the downwind leg of the circuit for runway 05 (the opposite direction to which the aircraft took off). This circuit took the aircraft to the north and west of the airport. The engine subsequently failed completely and the pilot reported changing to runway 08.

A number of witnesses observed the aircraft on approach to runway 08 and reported that the aircraft appeared to be low and slow. The witnesses reported that there was no engine sound, and several reported that they observed the propeller to be stationary. The aircraft was observed to roll to the left, descend and impact terrain (Figure 3). Residents of the adjoining properties attempted to rescue the pilot and provide first aid; however, the pilot sustained fatal injuries. The aircraft was destroyed.

Figure 3: VH-WID at accident site

Figure 3: VH-WID at accident site.
Source: ATSB

Source: ATSB

Ongoing investigation

The investigation is continuing and will include examination of:

  • the aircraft’s engine
  • aircraft maintenance documentation and operational records
  • aircraft build documentation
  • recovered instruments and electronic devices
  • aircraft performance characteristics and recorded flight data
  • pilot qualifications and experience.

Should any safety critical information be discovered at any time during the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify operators and regulators so appropriate and timely safety action can be taken.

A final report will be published at the conclusion of the investigation.


  1. Eastern Standard Time (EST): Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) + 10 hours.
  2. Runways are described by their magnetic heading, rounded to the nearest 10 degrees and expressed in 2 digits representing the 100’s and 10’s of degrees. Runway 23 at Maitland Airport is aligned with a magnetic heading of 225°.
General details
Date: 17 May 2020   Investigation status: Active  
Time: 1012 AEST   Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): near Maitland Airport   Investigation phase: Examination and analysis  
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
Release date: 26 June 2020   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Preliminary   Highest injury level: Fatal  
Anticipated completion: 2nd Quarter 2021    

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Amateur Built Aircraft  
Aircraft model Osprey 2 Amphibian  
Aircraft registration VH-WID  
Serial number WJC 003  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Departure point Maitland Airport, New South Wales  
Destination Maitland Airport, New South Wales  
Last update 25 September 2020