• The crash site of VH-JMW near The Lakes in NSW. (ATSB)
    The crash site of VH-JMW near The Lakes in NSW. (ATSB)

A Cessna 310 crash near The Lakes, NSW, in October 2017 was probably the result of a loss of control at low speed and power, according to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigation report released this week.

VH-JMW was at the end of a round trip to Toowoomba, QLD, when it crashed just short of The Lakes airstrip. The pilot and one passenger died in the crash.

According to witnesses, the aircraft sounded more like a single-engine aircraft on approach and then the engine noise stopped before the aircraft "jerked suddenly, rolled to the left and descended rapidly to the ground."

The ATSB investigation identified that "during the final descent, the aircraft’s left engine was not producing power and the right engine was operating at low or intermittent power. The loss of engine power was probably the result of either insufficient fuel for the flight or an in-flight fuel management error.

"Despite that power loss, examination of the wreckage identified that the aircraft was configured for a powered approach, in a high‑drag configuration with the left and right engine propellers unfeathered, the landing gear down and the flaps partially extended. The low engine power combined with the high-drag configuration meant that the aircraft’s speed and altitude could not be maintained."

Although the ATSB was not able to determine the actual fuel state of the aeroplane when the crash occured, the report did note the absence of post-impact fire and a lack of damage to vegetation normally seen after a significant fuel spill.

"Following the loss of engine power a safe flying speed was not maintained," the ATSB found, "resulting in a loss of control and collision with terrain due to either an aerodynamic stall, asymmetric power effects or a combination of both."

ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood said this accident highlighted how a loss in power requires different responses depending on whether an aircraft has single or multiple engines.

“However, regardless of the configuration, in order to maximise the survivability outcome it is imperative that the pilot retains control of the aircraft and maintains a safe airspeed,” Hood said

“Where the aircraft’s performance degrades to the point that continued safe flight is not possible, the pilot must shift their focus to conducting a forced landing.”

Hood also stressed that pilots should follow recognised fuel management practices in order to avoid fuel exhaustion or starvation.

The full report is on the ATSB website.

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