Aaron Bunch Journalist with Australian Associated Press | Collection of published work | + 61 484 008 119 | abunch@aap.com.au

Aaron Bunch
Inexperience caused fatal Qld plane crash

Crash investigators say a pilot and an instructor who died in a far north Queensland light aircraft accident had no recent experience in the plane.

October 21, 2020

A rusty light aircraft pilot and an inexperienced flight instructor died in far north Queensland after their plane slammed into the ground during a training exercise, a crash investigation has found.

The pair simulated an engine failure about 20 seconds after take off at Mareeba Airport in December 2019, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said.

Their twin piston-engined Angel 44 rolled rapidly to the right before the accident, which fatally injured the pilot and instructor.

Transport Safety Director Stuart Godley said the duo lost control of aircraft at a height from which it was too low to recover.

“Power was not immediately restored to the right engine to discontinue the exercise and the pilots were unable to maintain altitude … with the aircraft banked towards the inoperative engine,” he said.

Their plane hit the ground in a cornfield 475 metres north of the runway.

Witnesses spotted the aircraft touch down on the runway, accelerate and take off again before the crash.

After take-off, the aircraft climbed to about 100-150 feet before banking to the right.

Neither the pilot nor the instructor had any recent experience in the aircraft, which had not been flown regularly for more than two years, investigators found.

The pilot had also not flown for three years before the accident, which likely resulted in a decay of skills at managing tasks such as an engine failure after take-off.

The instructor had limited experience in multi-engine planes with retractable landing gear and had only once before flown the Angel 44 aircraft, several years earlier.

Dr Godley said it was likely the instructor didn’t know how long it took for the landing gear and flaps to retract – approximately 14 seconds – and the detrimental effect that would have on the plane’s ability to climb with only one engine firing.

“In light twin-engine aeroplanes, loss of power on one engine shortly after take-off poses a high risk due to low height above ground, low airspeed and generally limited single-engine climb performance,” he said.

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