Aviation occurrence briefs

Request for navigational assistance involving a Piper PA-28-181, near Scone Airport, NSW, on 3 May 2020

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 3 May 2020 at about 1400 Eastern Standard Time, a solo student pilot was conducting a navigation exercise in a Piper PA-28-181 in the vicinity of Scone, New South Wales. The pilot became unsure of the aircraft’s position when he was unable to identify Scone Airport and followed the lost procedure, contacting air traffic control (ATC) for assistance.

As there was poor VHF reception with the aircraft, two other aircraft in the area provided navigational assistance and relayed instructions between ATC and the pilot of the Piper PA-28-181. ATC requested the aircraft climb to 7,500 ft in an attempt to be identified by radar. Once the aircraft was identified, ATC then provided a heading for Scone Airport and the aircraft proceeded without further incident.

Following the flight, the instructor conducted a two-hour incident debrief with the student pilot. The student will undertake further map reading training to ensure proficiency in this area prior to his next flight.

Safety message

This incident highlights the importance of remaining calm and remembering procedures in the face of uncertainty. If a pilot is unsure of the aircraft’s location, ATC is able to assist with locating positions using transponder codes, prominent landmarks and radio navigation.

In this incident, the further assistance provided by aircraft in the vicinity ensured a positive outcome.

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.

General details
Date: 03 May 2020   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1400 EST    
Location   (show map): Near Scone    
State: New South Wales    
Release Date: 05 June 2020   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Piper Aircraft Corp  
Aircraft model PA-28-181  
Type of operation Flying Training  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Scone Airport, New South Wales  
Destination Scone Airport, New South Wales  
Last update 05 June 2020