AUSTRALIA'S air safety authority has found a fatal plane crash near Bathurst three years ago was caused by an aerodynamic stall.
A 44-year-old man died in the crash into bushland at Upper Turon on Friday, June 16, 2017.
The plane, a Pacific Aerospace Limited FU24 Stallion, registered VH-EUO, was conducting aerial agricultural operations from an airstrip 40 km north-east of Bathurst, applying fertiliser and seed to private grazing land.
At about 2.05pm, the aircraft took off from the airstrip for the second flight of the second job of the day, but did not return as expected. At 3pm, emergency services were called, police arrived on site and a ground search commenced. POLAIR also joined in the search, which was eventually called off later that evening due to low light.
The next morning, the search recommenced and included NSW Police State Emergency Service personnel, and local volunteers. Just before 8am, the wreckage of the aircraft was found in dense bush on the side of a hill. The pilot, who was found still inside the plane, was fatally injured in the crash.
The Air Transport Safety Bureau found shortly after the end of the third application run, the aircraft was flown into an area of rising terrain that was outside the normal operating area for that job site.
While subsequently repositioning the aircraft for the fourth application run, it was likely that the aircraft aerodynamically stalled leading to a collision.
The report found while the pilot was very experienced in aircraft similar to the Stallion, he had only accrued about 43 hours in EUO.
"It was likely the pilot would have had stall training in other aircraft types, however, the chief pilot reported that stalling the aircraft was not included as part of the endorsement on the Stallion aircraft (nor was it required to be). It is therefore likely that the pilot had never experienced a stall in the Stallion aircraft-type."
Although the Stallion was fitted with an audible stall warning system, additional training may have given the pilot familiarity with the stall characteristics of the aircraft. In this case, however, the report found "it is unknown if the absence of type-specific stall training influenced the development of the accident."
In its report the ATSB issued a safety message to pilots reminding them of the dangers of aerial application near rising terrain and the importance of pre-flight planning of application runs to account for nearby terrain.
"Although it could not be established that not dumping the hopper contributed to this accident, in an emergency, reducing the aircraft's weight by dumping the hopper load will optimise an aircraft's flight performance."