• VH-OAJ lies in the scrub at the end of Somersby ALA in NSW. (ATSB)
    VH-OAJ lies in the scrub at the end of Somersby ALA in NSW. (ATSB)

The fatal crash of an Van's RV-6A at Somersby last year has prompted the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) to call for CASA to include guidance on building overruns in the Civil Aviation Advisory Publication (CAAP) governing aeroplane landing areas (ALA).

VH-OAJ crashed at Somersby after a failed landing attempt and struck a watercourse beyond the end of the runway. The pilot, who was the only person on board, was seriously injured and died two days later.

In the investigation report released yesterday, the ATSB noted only that the aircraft was fast on approach, landed longer than normal and bounced three times before running off the end of the runway. Investigators were unable to determine why this happened, but noted the 1.5-degree downslope on the runway may have contributed to an illusion that the pilot was higher than he thought.

Skidmarks on the runway, engine power and a GPS record of groundspeed showed that the pilot had made no attempt to go-around even though the possibility of having to do so had been discussed with the airfield owner prior to the crash.

"As part of the subsequent investigation, the ATSB compared the number of occupant injuries from runway excursions at ALAs with those at certified aerodromes," the ATSB stated. "The analysis found the number of injuries after a runway excursion at an ALA was three times that at a certified aerodrome."

According to the ATSB there were 99 runway excursion reported between 2014 and 2018. Of these, 10% resulted in injury. Over the same period, 250 runway excursion occurrences at certified or registered aerodromes, with 3% resulting in injury.

ALAs are not subject to CASA’s Manual of Standards for aerodromes, which mandates at least 30 metres clear at the end of a runway at certified aerodromes.

“Where possible, ALA owners should consider the inclusion of a runway overrun area,” ATSB Transport Safety Director, Dr Stuart Godley said.

“Should a runway excursion occur at an ALA, obstacles at the end of the runway can increase the risk of occupant injury and aircraft damage.”

“In this case, the presence of the watercourse at the end of the runway increased the risk of aircraft damage and serious occupant injury as the aircraft stopped significantly faster than it would have if the area had been cleared of obstacles,” Godley said.

The ATSB has issued CASA with a Safety Recommendation to publish guidance for the inclusion of a safe runway overrun area in their advisory publication for for ALAs.

CASA has responded by saying that CAAP 92-1(1) covering ALAs will be reviewed as part of the regulatory changes introduced with CASR 91. It noted, however, that the cost of establishing and maintaining overrun areas at ALAs would be costly for the general aviation community.

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