The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released its final report into the fatal crash of a Cessna 182a in 2012. The aircraft lost a wing after striking powerlines as the pilot made a low pass over the Christmas party he was due to attend.
The pilot, who was the only one on board, was also an experienced parachutist and had made several descents to the drop zone at Burrum River where the accident occurred. He was described by people that knew him as being ‘experienced and safe.’
However, the GPS navigation unit recovered from the wreckage showed ‘that the pilot had previously conducted low level passes at a number of locations’, including at the drop zone were the accident occurred. This was despite the pilot not having any low-level flying endorsement or training.
Wire strikes continue to be a major aviation safety occurrence in Australia with 184 incidents recorded in the last five years. Aerial agriculture accounts for the majority of strikes, but there are a concerning number of private and sports aircraft coming into contact with powerlines, particularly when those lines are well below the minimum 500ft altitude above ground level (AGL).
The report found there was ‘no operational reason for the pilot to fly at a height below 500ft’ and that the minimum altitude for flight over non-populated areas is in place for long standing safety reasons.
The ATSB concluded with a stark warning:
Pilots who choose to fly below this height without an operational reason to do so are exposing themselves, and any passengers that may be on board, to an increased risk of striking powerlines, many of which are difficult to see from the cockpit of an aircraft in flight. The circumstances of this accident highlight that risk.
For more safety information on wire strikes, please visit the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s Wire Strikes Resources page.