Aviation safety investigations & reports

VFR into IMC involving a Piper PA-28, VH-FPS, near Warrnambool, Victoria, on 25 February 2021

Investigation number:
Status: Active
Investigation in progress


The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has commenced a transport safety investigation into the VFR[1] flight into IMC[2] involving a Piper PA-28, VH-FPS, near Warrnambool, Victoria.

During cruise, the crew, operating under VFR, reported encountering unforecast weather and elected to return to Warrnambool. The instructor determined that conditions at the destination were unsuitable and assumed control, entering IMC on climb and requesting assistance from the controller. The aircraft landed safely at Moorabbin Airport. The investigation is continuing.

As part of the investigation, the ATSB will review the forecast and actual weather information, analyse any available recorded data, and interview involved parties.

A report will be published at the conclusion of the investigation. However, should any critical safety issues be identified at any stage during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate safety action can be taken.


  1. Visual flight rules (VFR): a set of regulations that permit a pilot to operate an aircraft only in weather conditions generally clear enough to allow the pilot to see where the aircraft is going.
  2. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC): weather conditions that require pilots to fly primarily by reference to instruments, and therefore under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), rather than by outside visual reference. Typically, this means flying in cloud or limited visibility.
General details
Date: 25 February 2021   Investigation status: Active  
Time: 16:15 ESuT   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): near Warrnambool Aerodrome   Investigation phase: Evidence collection  
State: Victoria   Occurrence type: VFR into IMC  
  Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Pending   Highest injury level: None  
Anticipated completion: 3rd Quarter 2021    

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Piper Aircraft Corp  
Aircraft model PA-28-161  
Aircraft registration VH-FPS  
Serial number 28-16119  
Operator Aviation Management Services Pty Ltd  
Type of operation Flying Training  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Warrnambool, Victoria  
Destination Moorabbin, Victoria  
Last update 04 March 2021