Aviation occurrence briefs

Collision with terrain involving Vans Aircraft, RV-7A, Atherton Airport, Qld, on 15 January 2018

Status: Completed
Investigation completed


Occurrence Briefs are concise reports that detail the facts surrounding a transport safety occurrence, as received in the initial notification and any follow-up enquiries. They provide an opportunity to share safety messages in the absence of an investigation.

What happened

On 15 January 2018, at 1245 Eastern Standard Time (EST), a Vans Aircraft RV-7A commenced take-off from runway 15 at Atherton airport, Queensland (Qld) for Charters Towers, Qld. The pilot was the sole occupant.

The pilot reported that upon rotation,[1] the aircraft encountered a dust devil[2] and was pushed to the left. The pilot then applied full power in an effort to regain directional control and land the aircraft. The left wing, however, contacted the ground, and the aircraft came to rest inverted. The aircraft was substantially damaged and the pilot received minor injuries.

A row of trees to the left of the runway combined with hot weather was conducive to the formation of dust devils. There was no visual indication of debris or dust plumes to indicate the sudden formation or location of the dust devil, causing difficulty in identification and avoidance measures.

Figure 1: Vans Aircraft RV-7A post-accident, including damage to the left wing

Figure 1: Vans Aircraft RV-7A post-accident, including damage to the left wing. Source: Queensland Police Service

Source: Queensland Police Service

Safety message

The ATSB has investigated multiple take-off and landing accidents associated with dust devils, including Loss of Control; Mt Vernon Station, WA; 1 September 2006; VH-RIL, Cessna 172L (200605133), which highlights the risk of this phenomenon and how light aircraft may be affected. Further information on The Dangers of Dust Devils is available on the ATSB website.

About this report

Decisions regarding whether to conduct an investigation, and the scope of an investigation, are based on many factors, including the level of safety benefit likely to be obtained from an investigation. For this occurrence, no investigation has been conducted and the ATSB did not verify the accuracy of the information. A brief description has been written using information supplied in the notification and any follow-up information in order to produce a short summary report, and allow for greater industry awareness of potential safety issues and possible safety actions.



  1. Rotation: The action of raising the nose wheel by applying back pressure to the yoke.
  2. Dust devil: A dust filled vortex similar in shape to a tornado but of much less strength. Source: Bureau of Meteorology
General details
Date: 15 January 2018   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1245 EST    
Location   (show map): Atherton Airport    
State: Queensland    
Release Date: 12 April 2018   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Minor  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Vans Aircraft Ltd  
Aircraft model RV-7A  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Last update 16 May 2018