On 13 June 2023, a Cirrus Design Corporation SR20 was on a private business flight from Kalgoorlie-Boulder to Jandakot, Western Australia. The pilot was the sole occupant on board for the flight. They had about 10,000 hours total flight time, with about 700 hours experience on the SR20.
After a work-related delay, and needing to prepare the aircraft for the planned flight, the pilot was concerned that they would be close to a last light arrival at Jandakot. They refuelled the aircraft and taxied for departure without conducting a fuel drain. The aircraft departed Kalgoorlie at about 1450 local.
The initial planned altitude for the flight was 4,500 ft above mean sea level, however due to cloud at about 1,500 ft, the pilot conducted the flight at about 500 ft above ground level.
About 40 minutes into the flight, the fuel pressure began fluctuating significantly and the engine began to lose power. The pilot reported becoming distracted while troubleshooting the engine power loss. They activated the electric fuel pump and switched fuel tanks but had not noticed that the aircraft had descended close to terrain.
As engine power was restored, the pilot realised that they had descended too low and the aircraft was about to impact the terrain. The pilot recalled attempting a full power climb as the undercarriage began to make contact with low lying scrub and bushes.
The aircraft was unable to climb away and settled into the vegetation in a high-power, nose-up attitude. The propeller impacted the ground, the pilot recalled reducing the power and cutting the mixture before switching off the electrical power. The main undercarriage collapsed, and the aircraft slid about 300 m before coming to rest upright, in the direction of travel. The pilot exited the cockpit with only minor injuries.
The crash activated emergency locator transmitter activated at about 1533, and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority rescue co-ordination centre contacted the aircraft reporting person, whom in turn contacted the pilot immediately thereafter to establish their well-being.
The pilot was located by local police at about 1815 and assessed by ambulance and transported to the local hospital for over-night observation.
Pilot distraction, at the expense of flying the aircraft even during emergency troubleshooting, is a significant hazard. Rectifying an emergency by exclusively focusing attention inside the cockpit reduces pilot situational awareness and increases the risk of controlled flight into terrain.
Additionally, deviation from your original flight plan, such as impromptu low-level flight, reduces the time available to react and recover from an emergency, leaving less time for pilots to ‘aviate, navigate and communicate’. This can lead to dangerous distractions that might otherwise narrow pilot attention to the detriment of flight safety.
Furthermore, pilots are reminded that not rushing vital checks, such as the pre-flight inspection due to perceived or self-imposed pressures will increase the likelihood that your aircraft is adequately prepared for departure.
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.