Close Calls

Have you had a close call? Write to us about an aviation incident or accident that you have been involved in (as long as it’s not the subject of a current official investigation). If we publish your story, you will receive $500. Articles should be between 450 and 1400 words. Submit your close call by emailing fsa@casa.gov.au and your story could be published like the ones below...

Conspiracy theory

Name withheld by request Conspire (verb) of events or circumstances, seemingly to be working together to bring about a particularly negative result. That word conspire went...

Holes in the cheese

by Paul Gordon-Brander A Piper PA28R-200 Arrow arrived at our facility for an annual inspection and engine overhaul. The work pack was compiled, the engine...

Flying into cloud

Name withheld by request Around 5 pm, after a summer’s day, 30 miles south of Biloela, I became surrounded by thick bushfire smoke on top...

Radios—it’s a big sky, but are you listening?

Name withheld by request Early on in my commercial flying career, I was operating a Cessna 172 on a scenic charter flight will three passengers...

Thermal lesson learnt

Chris Sieberhagen It was a warm, sunny, late morning on an abandoned airfield surrounded by patchy red earth. You could almost see the thermals popping all...

Drinking distraction

Name withheld by request It was my rostered day as tow pilot at the gliding club. I got there early so I could pre-flight the...

Time is ticking

by Noah Mirosch The beginning It was a routine training flight like any other—Archerfield to Lismore via an overfly at Gold Coast, Lismore to Stanthorpe, and...

When I was young and fuellish

Name withheld by request It had been a picture perfect day when I set off from Brisbane on a solo navex out west in a...

The hills are alive

Name withheld by request I’ve held a VFR private pilot’s licence since 1988 and have around 1100 hours in command. Recently, I was involved in...

Sit up or die

Doug Hollstrom It was a beautiful summer’s day in northern Michigan, in the US. It was 1979 and I had decided to go flying in...

More than a tropical breeze

Jason MacLeod In June 2016, I travelled to Bali for work but managed to make that coincide with a paragliding tour. With a newly minted...

Easter road trip

By Anthonie Schutte It’s the Easter weekend. The weather’s perfect, skies are clear and my mate Kevin and I are in the cockpit of my...

All right on the night

Name withheld by request After the incident, I could only laugh how typical Murphy's law had been to me. I hadn't flown a single minute...
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Obvious, with hindsight

Matthew Tomlinson 15 seconds. That was all it took. From the threat first being detected, to a potentially deadly situation, took just 15 seconds. This...
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Down to the last drop

A hangar story that could easily have been a front-page newspaper story Name withheld by request It was early autumn many years ago and I was...

Watch those last few feet

Name withheld by request My first close call occurred in September last year. At the time it frightened me to death, but it proved to...
image: © Nicholas Fisher | ww.thefishercollective.com

Driven to distraction!

By Frank Martinelli I am a low-hour recreational pilot who flies from Tyabb, a non-controlled airport south of Melbourne. I usually fly alone, or with...
clouds

Edging around the storm

Name withheld by request As someone who grew up in south-eastern Queensland, I will always remember the strong summer storms that would blow through: the...

Arcing up

It was a simple, mostly harmless event, but it embarrassed an experienced pilot and caused him to ponder his attitude to risk. I had been...

Hot and distracted

It was a summer day in the north west of NSW and quite hot. I departed the airfield mid-morning and climbed out for some...

At any second

Allan Wardill recalls a crystal clear memory: his first engine failure I was based at Wewak on the north coast of Papua New Guinea in...
Piper

Never forget they’re out there

By Phil Carrick About a year and a half ago, I took a friend for a great day of flying from Sydney out to Temora...
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In sickness and in health

By Deborah Blackman My partner’s and my four-year dream was about to come to fruition—we were departing on a 78-day flight from Brisbane through northern,...
Drifter

AUDIO♫: The devil in the detail

How a recreational pilot found himself loaded with fuel without a drop to spare. Many years ago, I was given the task of delivering a...

All fingers and toes

A low-hour pilot meets the imperatives of ergonomics. It was a crisp, early morning—cool enough to make your fingertips slightly numb, but a perfect flying...
Libelle Glider

Popping a joint

A glider jaunt turns serious. I arrived at the airfield at around 11am on a blue, but soarable day, and found several club members already...
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AUDIO♫: Out in Africa

By Rob Rickards This newly instrument rated pilot was as happy as a warthog in elephant dung. I was flying old, but still shiny, twin...

Power plus attitude

By Max Collins Night over the Pacific. A Falcon 900 returning to Perth from the United States via Honolulu and Townsville. The aircraft was operated by...
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Light bulb moment

By Peter McCarthy As a young pilot with about 170 hours total experience, I agreed to make a five-day trip carrying university students on a...

AUDIO♫: What you don’t find can kill you

How secure is your cockpit and cabin? Is everything stowed safely, but still readily available if needed? One of the fundamental problems with flying is...

Hard lesson to learn

By Mark Awad It was the type of day most of us pilots live for—low 20 degrees, severe-clear blue skies and not a breath of...

Three-ring mistake

By Mike McGrath My name is Mike McGrath. I am (or was) a professional skydiver with over 12,000 jumps (7000 tandem jumps) and was the...
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AUDIO♫: Undone over Gulgong

By Brendan Cammack I was running late when I finally left Canberra for the five-hour drive to the town of Gulgong, NSW. Once there I...
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A second chance

Name withheld by request It has taken me six years to actually write this. On many occasions I have thought about it and not done...
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Head for the hills

Name withheld by request When a scenic hang glide took a turn for the worse. I haven’t mentioned this sport aviation close call to many people,...

AUDIO♫: The rule of three

Name withheld by request I spent my childhood dreaming of becoming a pilot and getting paid to do something I loved so much. I was...

Solo flight: group errors

By Graham Rees ‘If you see any lift, take it!’ exhorted my instructor. Or so I believed. This was not the first error of the...

Hot and high

Name withheld by request As a fresh PPL pilot, I was always thrilled when I got to navigate across the state all by myself. The...

AUDIO♫: Learning by threes

Name withheld by request Complacency is a silent killer. Distraction is beyond dangerous. Situational awareness is everything. These are the three insights I have gained since...
Cessna 172

VFR in not-so VMC weather

Name withheld by request After lengthy pre-flight planning and preparation, a fellow CPL student and I left Parafield for our commercial training navex to Ayers...

Get there ‘itis’

Name withheld by request After having recently achieved my private pilot’s licence, I decided to take up an offer from a friend to fly to...

The newbie and the old and bold

Name withheld by request It was the early 1980s and I was about to do my second solo from a small airport on the NSW...
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Command decision

Name withheld by request I’ve been working for a GA company for the last two years and over that time I can’t recall a single...
Flames

Burning dream

By Dale Dieckmann I think my love of flying probably started when I was about three years old. I would spent a lot of time...
Mooney flying through a storm

AUDIO♫: Running from the storm

Name withheld by request Pressing on into an approaching storm-front, then going into low level ‘turn and run’ mode; this was as close to a...
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Fatigue faux-pas

Dry, hot and tired—not a good start for this CPL. Here I was a relatively low-time pilot with a fresh CPL working in various flying...

Alert to the danger

Funny how a chance discussion with another pilot before and after a flight can bring home some important safety lessons. This lesson was about...

AUDIO♫: Freight forward

An air transport pilot tells of a near miss in an ATR. Many years ago I was employed in Asia flying an ATR-72-212. This aircraft...
image: © ThinkStock | Vladimir Kanic

In the dark

I had originally intended to stay another day at the air show, but old mate camping next to me is leaving, so I decide...
image: © iStock Photo | Michal Staniewski

Complacency or paranoia?

Charles Day ponders the effect of age on pilot decision-making. Last season I performed my first wheel-up landing (with no damage fortunately), so perhaps it’s...
Bell UH-1H Iroquois helicopter

AUDIO♫: When the pedal hits the stop

My first posting as a brand new RAAF helicopter pilot was to 35 Squadron in Townsville, north Queensland, to fly the Bell UH-1H Iroquois....
Cessna conquest instrument panel

No light means it’s time to shine

Name withheld on request It was a lovely day to fly doctors down to Port Keats. The dry season was here which meant the thunderstorms...
Pilots in cockpit

Pre-flight distraction—it’s easy to get caught out!

Name withheld on request My aircraft is of the ‘low and slow’ variety, a tail wheeler with STOL performance. It’s usually hangared at home base...
Piper navajo

Professional unprofessional

Name withheld on request Here I was on another typical North Queensland wet season day; a low-time pilot, in the middle of a pilot shortage,...
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GPS guides to distraction

Modern technology can sometimes get in the way—literally, as David Julian discovered. As I completed my daily inspection, I reflected on the flying I’d done...
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Slash and crash

Answering nature’s call nearly cost hang glider pilot, Howard Taylor, his life. On the last day of winter this year, myself and a few other...
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Airborne: gasping for air

Never forget that your health is a vital part of your pre-flight checks. Name withheld by request Hypoxia can bite you when you least expect it...
Jabiru

Dry but not high

by Terry Clark This 60-year-old, male, low-hour pilot with about 100 GA hours and 50 RA hours was the proud new owner of a neat...
Hang glider

Do you have a checklist?

I had my close call with death last January and thankfully have now recovered enough to write about it, return to work and engage...
Piper Seneca

Be still my fluttering Seneca

By Sherman E Hall Although this incident took place almost forty years ago, it will resonate with pilots everywhere, and particularly with the intrepid owners...
Cessna 172

Winter of my fright

By Phillip Long By the winter of 2005 I had held a PPL for 30 years, with about 700 hours in the log book. I...
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Too smug for comfort

Name withheld by request Another very experienced pilot and I were flying a Conquest back to home base after dropping off a load of passengers....
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Cold fear in a plastic parrot

Name withheld by request As a professional pilot I saw myself as someone with an above-average ability to sift through incoming information, identify the salient...
Richard Arnot in his gyrocopter

A different spin on take-off

By Richard Arnot An experienced fixed-wing pilot underestimates the subtle differences between aeroplane and gyrocopter handling. It was going to be easy to learn to fly...
Cessna 152

Short circuit

By Brendan Devine An aspiring pilot learns why all those circuit drills really matter. It was a Saturday morning in early April 2005 and I was...
Piper aircraft

Reading on a train saved my life

Name withheld by request An insidious hazard nearly ended this pilot’s career before it began—but left him with him a valuable insight. In 1999, I was...

Up, down, round and round – the haves and the wills

Name withheld by request I am in the right seat of a Cessna Cutlass in the Canberra circuit, training a private pilot toward his retractable...

Mountain madness

Name withheld by request We were sitting absolutely still on the runway when it began to rain. The captain was crying and I wanted to...

One night over Toowoomba

Name withheld by request In the mid-1980s, relatively early in my career, I was employed as a bank freight pilot, flying a Piper Seneca. Eight sectors...

Punching holes in Swiss cheese

A cluster of small innocuous decisions can add up to an unexpected fright, as this private pilot now knows. It was December 2004 and I'd...

Give a little bit

An enthusiastic and dedicated private pilot learns the difference between discipline and rigidity As a financial markets professional who has been involved in the foreign...

A few home truths

A bemused pilot ponders domestic life, aviation and their interaction I was 40 years old before I could achieve a long-time ambition to fly. Over...

Complacency can kill

Many years ago I was over the moon to be offered casual weekend work flying joy flights in an aerobatic, radial-engine warbird. I had...

Icing in the USA

A few years ago, while living in the south-eastern United States, I decided it was time for an instrument rating. I had about 250...

Frying tonight

There are some situations in flying that really energise your thinking. Think of engine failure. Think of weather conditions deteriorating below minimums. And, as...

Back seat driver

Name withheld by request From 10,000 feet above Papua New Guinea’s Maoke ranges, the views were grand. Although higher mountainous terrain to the north appeared...

Double trouble

By Ian Robinson It has often been said that a pilot’s initial twin rating is the most risky undertaking in their flying career. This story...

Steep dark learning curve

Name withheld by request Your instructor may not always be right... During my flying career I have had many memorable experiences, and learnt more valuable lessons...

Go around!

By Ghim L. Cheah After an aircraft stabilises on finals on the approach, what are the chances of it discontinuing the approach? Usually—very remote. For...

Properly clear of the prop?

by Phillip Zamagias How many times have we been told ‘treat every propeller as if it is live’? Like many things in aviation, years of doing...

When words fail

Name withheld by request A horrifyingly near miss starts a commercial pilot thinking on the flawed nature of cockpit communication Turn left heading xxx’. The hair...

Gone pear shaped

Name withheld by request Think you’ll never be seduced into relying on GPS instead of airmanship? Think again. How much do we rely on GPS? More...

Something to watch

Name withheld by request They say time flies when you’re having fun... I was off on a short flight with a friend from Cambridge (Hobart's GA...

Power isn’t everything

Name withheld by request A low-time pilot learns not to believe the hype about turbine helicopters I started flying when I was fourteen. My goal echoed...

How was your journey?

British-based airline pilot Mark Mannering-Smith evokes how quickly a flight can turn from sightseeing to intense planning. And the best part? None of the...

Tiger Country

By Owen Zupp On a June afternoon in 1993 I was tasked with a commercial pre-licence test for an overseas candidate who was champing at...

Too tired to glide?

I had flown a Cessna 182, along with three friends, to a nearby glider field, so we could all have some gliding experience and...

Bird dog distraction

Distraction by a fellow pilot's skills caused this embarrassed aviator to review his limitations. The Cessna 305, or Bird Dog, made its debut overhead the...

CAVOK confusion

A young pilot discovers a sky full of difference between two abbreviations that are sometimes taken to mean the same thing. CAVOK...thank goodness for that....