Investigation number
AO-2023-053
Occurrence date
Location
30 NM south-east of Cloncurry
State
Queensland
Report release date
Report status
Preliminary
Investigation level
Defined
Investigation type
Occurrence Investigation
Investigation phase
Examination and analysis
Investigation status
Active
Aviation occurrence type
Collision with terrain
Occurrence category
Accident
Highest injury level
Fatal
Anticipated completion

The ATSB is investigating a collision with terrain involving Gulfstream 695A JetProp Commander, registered VH-HPY, about 30 NM south-east of Cloncurry, Queensland on 4 November 2023.

The aircraft was being operated by AGAIR on an instrument flight rules flight from Toowoomba, Queensland to Mount Isa. On board the aircraft were the pilot and 2 camera operators. 

The aircraft departed Toowoomba at about 1055 local time and climbed to its cruise level of FL 280. At about 1141, the pilot descended the aircraft to FL 150, before commencing a climb back to FL 280 about 6 minutes later. The aircraft levelled off at FL 280 at about 1222.

At 1245:51, air traffic control (ATC) requested the pilot change frequency. This change was acknowledged by the pilot, but the controller did not receive radio communications from the flight on the newly assigned frequency. Between 1245:51 and 1350:51 multiple attempts were made by ATC to contact the flight. At 1351:59, the controller re-established radio communications with the pilot, who confirmed the aircraft was maintaining FL 280 and was ‘ops normal’. Between 1352:08 and 1401:36 several communications took place between ATC and the pilot. At 1419:22, ATC requested the pilot change frequency again, but no response was received.

The aircraft was not fitted with a cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder. However, flight data was transmitted to ground stations by aircraft/navigational equipment. This data indicated that at 1420:50 the aircraft’s groundspeed began to reduce from a cruise groundspeed of about 225 kt (417 km/h), while heading and altitude remained steady. At 1425:25, the groundspeed had decreased to about 104 kt (193 km/h) and the aircraft departed controlled flight. The aircraft initially entered a descending anticlockwise turn with an increasing rate of descent. It then transitioned into a tight clockwise helical descent, likely an aerodynamic spin, with a subsequent average rate of descent of about 13,500 ft/m.

At about 1427:20, the aircraft collided with terrain 30 NM (56 km) south-east of Cloncurry. The 3 occupants were fatally injured, and the aircraft was destroyed by impact forces and a fuel-fed post-impact fire.

The ATSB has commenced the examination and analysis of the initial evidence collected. To date, the ATSB has:

  • examined the wreckage and accident site
  • examined the Garmin GTN750 navigation system recovered from the accident site
  • interviewed relevant parties
  • collected radio communication, aircraft traffic surveillance data, and navigational application data
  • collected aircraft, pilot, crew and operator documentation.

The investigation is continuing and will include further analysis of:

  • the pilot’s speech during radio communications, including an examination of hypoxia indicators
  • meteorological information
  • maintenance records, including those of the aircraft’s pressurisation and oxygen systems, and airworthiness procedures
  • operational procedures and documentation
  • flight data and air traffic surveillance data
  • pilot and crew training and medical records.

A preliminary report was published on 7 February 2024. A final report will be released at the conclusion of the investigation. Should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties, so that appropriate safety action can be taken.

Last Updated
Aircraft Details
Departure point
Toowoomba Airport
Destination
Mount Isa Airport
Model
695A
Serial number
96051
Sector
Turboprop
Registration
VH-HPY
Operation type
Part 138 Aerial work operations
Damage
Destroyed
Manufacturer
Gulfstream Aerospace Corp
Aircraft Operator
AGAIR Logistics Pty Ltd