An ATSB investigation into the fatal crash of a Liberty XL2 has determined the aircraft likely stalled during a low-level downwind turn, leaving the pilot no time to recover.
The pilot of VH-XLK had arrived overhead a private ALA north of Braidwood NSW in August last year, and circled the strip after having been warned the runway was unsuitable for the aircraft. During the orbits, witnesses saw the aircraft roll and pitch down suddenly and crash in to the ground. The pilot was fatally injured.
One witness said the engine noise on the second orbit was noticeably less than the first and the aircraft seemed to be "hanging off the prop", describing a low speed and high nose attitude.
The orbits were done at a height of 200-400 feet above ground.
"The ATSB investigation found that the aircraft departed controlled flight after slowing and turning downwind with no flap selected,” said ATSB Director Transport Safety Dr Mike Walker.
“The left wing stalled, and this resulted in the aircraft entering into an upright spin at an altitude that limited an effective recovery.
“This investigation highlights the need for pilots to minimise the risk of stalling, particularly when in proximity to the ground, such as during take-off and landing.
“Turning manoeuvres at or close to the aircraft’s critical angle of attack, if mishandled, can lead to a stall that may result in the aircraft entering a spin.
“Pilots can limit their risk of losing control in flight by maintaining situational awareness of the aircraft state while conducting turns, maintaining adequate airspeed through appropriate power application during increased bank angles, and by selecting altitudes to operate at that provide sufficient height to recognise and recover from a stall.”
The investigation also noted that although the pilot's intentions weren't known, it is likely his focus was outside the cockpit, which led to him failing to monitor the aeroplane's speed and energy state.