The Australian Transport Safety Bureau this week issued a warning to pilots about continued flight into terrain following the fatal crash of a C172 near Ballina in 2017.
VH-FYN was being repositioned from Southport to Ballina for maintenance in June 2017 when the pilot diverted westward away from the direct track to Ballina and entered IMC. The aircraft collided with terrain near Brooklet, NSW, and was destroyed. The pilot died in the crash.
There were no defects or anomalies found in the recovered components, and test results show the pilot was unlikely to have become incapacitated in flight. The ATSB listed a VFR departure into the probability of low cloud, fog and showers of rain and spatial disorientation in IMC as contributing factors.
"The ATSB’s safety messages from this investigation are clear: visual flight rules pilots should conduct thorough pre-flight planning to avoid the possibility of flying into bad weather," said ATSB Executive Director Transport Safety Nat Nagy. "They should also make alternate plans in case weather deteriorates, and make timely decisions about diverting or turning back,”
“If visual flight rules pilots do find themselves in deteriorating weather and become disoriented or lost, they should seek whatever help is available including contacting air traffic control. This simple action has averted potential disaster in many instances.”
According to the ATSB investigation released this week, the weather at Southport at the time of the crash was VMC, but the forecasts for both Area 20 and the Ballina TAF indicated reduced visibility. The report also notes that the pilot had tried to access NAIPS to get the weather before the flight, but had trouble logging on.
The full report is on the ATSB website.