The crash of a Piper Warrior at Camden last year highlights the importance of practicing forced landings (PFL) according to an ATSB report released this week.
Warrior VH-SVW departed Camden's runway 06 on 20 April 2017, but experienced partial power loss almost immediately after take off. Because the vertical speed indicator was still positive, the pilot started a left turn, but after further power loss, committed to a forced landing.
"The pilot identified a small clearing between trees to the right and turned the aircraft toward that area," the ATSB report states. "The aircraft continued to descend and about eight seconds later, its right wing contacted the top of a tree. The aircraft then collided with the ground, spun around and came to rest. The aircraft was substantially damaged and fuel began leaking from its ruptured right fuel tank.
"The damaged right wing blocked the exit door; however, the front windscreen fractured on impact and provided an egress path for the occupants."
Both the pilot and passenger were seriously injured and taken to hospital.
ATSB investigations were unable to determine why the engine suffered a power loss, with the report focusing on the potential for carburettor icing before dismissing it as a potential cause. However, the report did single out the pilot's training as a factor in the decisions he made in the heat of the moment.
"The accident highlights the value of practicing emergency procedures as time, and the options available in an emergency, can be minimal. In this case, the pilot had practiced forced landings in his last flight review. That may have assisted his decisive action and maintenance of aircraft control when faced with the engine power loss at low altitude."
The full investigation report is on the ATSB website.