Aviation safety investigations & reports

In-flight break-up involving Vans Aircraft RV-7A, registered VH-XWI, 90 km south of Charters Towers, QLD, 23 April 2021

Investigation number:
Status: Active
Investigation in progress


The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is investigating an in-flight break-up involving a Van’s Aircraft RV-7A, VH-XWI, about 90 km south of Charters Towers, Queensland, on 23 April 2021.

The pilot, who was the sole occupant, was conducting a private flight from Winton to Bowen, Queensland. During the cruise, the aircraft experienced an in-flight break-up. The pilot was fatally injured, and the aircraft was destroyed.

Two transport safety investigators with experience in aircraft operations and aircraft maintenance travelled to the accident site to examine the wreckage, and map the site using a drone and other site survey equipment. An electronic primary flight display and an iPad were recovered from the accident site and taken to the ATSB’s technical facilities in Canberra for further examination.

The ATSB will also analyse available recorded data and weather information, and will interview witnesses and other involved parties.

A preliminary report is expected to be released in a number of weeks, while a final 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.

General details
Date: 23 April 2021   Investigation status: Active  
Time: 9:52 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Charters Towers Aerodrome, 172° M 90 km   Investigation phase: Evidence collection  
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
  Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Pending   Highest injury level: Fatal  
Anticipated completion: 4th Quarter 2021    

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Amateur Built Aircraft  
Aircraft model VANS RV7A  
Aircraft registration VH-XWI  
Serial number 73427  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Departure point Winton, Queensland  
Destination Bowen, Queensland  
Last update 03 May 2021