Aviation safety investigations & reports

Descent below the lowest safe altitude involving Aero Commander 500-S, VH-LTP, near Adelaide Airport, South Australia, on 12 August 2021

Investigation number:
Status: Active
Investigation in progress


The ATSB is investigating a reported descent below the lowest safe altitude involving an Aero Commander 500-S, VH-LTP, near Adelaide Airport, South Australia on 12 August 2021.

The pilot was conducting a private flight from Port Lincoln to Adelaide under instrument flight rules. When the aircraft was about 20 km north of Adelaide Airport, air traffic control (ATC) cleared the pilot to commence the RNAV-Z Runway 23 approach. The aircraft was subsequently observed turning right away from the cleared route.

The controller then provided the pilot with vectors to rejoin the approach. Shortly after, communications were lost with the pilot, and ATC observed the aircraft on radar in a slow descent. When communications were re-established, the aircraft had descended to 2,500 ft, which was 1,300 ft below the lowest safe altitude. ATC instructed the pilot to climb immediately to 5,000 ft and provided headings to vector the aircraft to Adelaide.

As part of the investigation, investigators will be interviewing the pilot and reviewing the weather, ATC audio and radar tracks.

Should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate safety action can be taken.

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

General details
Date: 12 August 2021   Investigation status: Active  
Time: 00:25 UTC   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 26 km north-east of Adelaide Airport   Investigation phase: Evidence collection  
State: South Australia   Occurrence type: Flight below minimum altitude  
  Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Pending   Highest injury level: None  
Anticipated completion: 1st Quarter 2022    

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Aero Commander  
Aircraft model 500-S  
Aircraft registration VH-LTP  
Serial number 3323  
Operator Australian Fishing Enterprises  
Type of operation General Aviation  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Port Lincoln Aerodrome, South Australia  
Destination Adelaide Airport, South Australia  
Last update 25 August 2021