Thursday, July 12, 2012

Piper PA-34-200 Seneca, Golden Eagle Airlines, VH-LCK: Fatal accident occurred July 11, 2012 in Broome, Australia

Aviation safety investigation & report 

Engine power loss and departure from controlled flight involving Piper Seneca, VH-LCK near Broome Airport, WA on 11 July 2012

Investigation number: AO-2012-093
Investigation status: Completed 
Investigation completed

What happened
On 11 July 2012, the pilot of a Piper Seneca I, registered VH-LCK, was conducting a freight-carrying flight between Broome and Port Hedland, Western Australia. The flight was conducted at night under the instrument flight rules. Witnesses who heard or saw the aircraft take-off reported hearing unusual noises from the engines during the climb. Other witnesses closer to the accident site reported hearing the engine sound suddenly cut out before the aircraft banked left and descended steeply towards the ground. The aircraft wreckage was located amongst sand dunes, about 880 m beyond the upwind runway threshold. The aircraft was destroyed and the pilot sustained fatal injuries.

What the ATSB found
The take-off towards the ocean was conducted in dark night conditions with limited external visual cues. An on-board global positioning system (GPS) recorded a reducing ground speed as the aircraft approached and passed overhead the upwind runway threshold, but without a significant increase in climb performance. That reduction in ground speed occurred about the same time witnesses heard unusual noises from the aircraft’s engines.

In the absence of any identified environmental, airframe or structural factors, the witness reports and GPS data were consistent with the aircraft’s performance being affected by a reduction in engine power. Following the likely loss of engine power, the aircraft speed reduced significantly, resulting in uncontrolled flight, a steep descent and collision with terrain.

Although not identified as a factor contributing to this occurrence, post-accident examination of the aircraft’s fuel selector valves found the internal seals had deteriorated and allowed fuel to flow to the engines when the valves were in the OFF position. A review of the aircraft manufacturer’s maintenance instructions revealed this type of internal leakage may not be evident during routine maintenance, although a non-scheduled valve leak procedure was available.

NTSB Identification: WPR12WA334
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Non-U.S., Commercial
Accident occurred Wednesday, July 11, 2012 in Broome, Australia

Aircraft: PIPER PA34, registration: VH-LCK
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

On July 11, 2012, at 2020 universal coordinated time, a Piper PA-34-200, VH-LCK, collided with terrain near Broome, Australia. The airplane was a charter flight operating under the pertinent civil regulations of Australia. The pilot was fatally injured and the airplane was substantially damaged.

The investigation is under the jurisdiction of the Government of Australia. This report is for information purposes only and contains only information released by the Government of Australia. Further information pertaining to this accident may be obtained from:

Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB)
P.O. Box 967, Civic Square
Canberra A.C.T. 2608

Tel: +612 6274 6054
Fax: +612 6274 6434

Adam Gaffney died when his plane crashed into dunes at Cable Beach.

 The scene of the crash

The Piper Seneca believed to have been involved in the crash.

Adam Gaffney was the young pilot that tragically lost his life in a plane crash in Broome last night.

The 27-year-old’s life ended suddenly when his twin-engine aircraft spiralled into the sand dunes at Cable Beach, killing him.

Mr Gaffney was the only person aboard the plane, which was carrying cargo to Port Hedland, his body has been recovered.

It is believed the young man recently became engaged.


Mr Gaffney, who worked for Golden Eagle Airlines, has been described as a man who loved his job and had showed great potential.

Golden Eagle Airlines this morning released a statement saying the company was mourning the loss of a friend and pilot.

“Our condolences go out to his family and friends,” the statement said. “The company appreciates the rapid response of personnel involved in the search and rescue operations.”

The statement said the Piper Seneca aircraft had been on a regular freight flight and took off in good conditions.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau officers will work with police and coronial staff to investigate the cause of the crash and have asked for witnesses to contact them.

Watch Video:

A freight plane crash on a Kimberley beach that claimed the life of the pilot was not caused by excessive load, West Australian police say.

The freight plane pilot killed in a crash on Western Australia's Kimberley coast was not flying an overloaded aircraft and was highly experienced, police say.

The twin-engine Piper Seneca freight plane took off in good weather conditions about 8pm (WST) on Wednesday and moments later crashed in sand dunes about 2km south of Cable Beach, killing the 27-year-old male pilot who has not yet been formally identified. No one else was on board.

The plane, owned by Golden Eagle Airlines, was on a regular freight route to Port Hedland and could not be contacted after take-off.

It was thought the plane had crashed into the ocean before the focus of the search turned to sand dunes.

Freelance photographer Paul Bell, who was with police when they found the wreckage, said it appeared the plane flew off the end of the Broome runway, cleared a highway, but did not clear dunes on the other side of the highway.

Kimberley police acting superintendent Frank Audis ruled out the possibility the plane was carrying too much cargo.

"It was standard freight that this flight normally carries," he told ABC radio.

"I can tell you that the freight was not of excessive load."

He said the pilot had more than 400 hours flight time on that route and at night.

It was standard protocol not to release the identity of the deceased for 24 hours to allow the family to inform other relatives.

Air Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) officers flew from Perth to Broome Thursday afternoon to conduct an investigation into the crash.

ATSB spokesman Joe Hattley said the probe was likely to take about 12 months.

The Broome community was shocked by the accident, which occurred at the same time as a large concert on Cable Beach.

Golden Eagle Airlines, which said it had been operating in the region without incident for the past 22 years, said it was mourning the loss of a friend, and condolences went out to his family and friends.  The ATSB has called for information from anyone who heard or saw the accident, and can be reached on 1800 020 616.

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