Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Emus on runway likely cause of Cessna's outback crash at Honeymoon

A pilot who crashed at an outback airstrip with the landing gear retracted was probably distracted by emus, an accident report has found.

The Cessna 441 pilot was making his third trip for the day between Adelaide and the outback Honeymoon mine area in the far north of South Australia.

There were eight passengers on board when the aircraft crash-landed, in early September, and none was injured despite the belly landing.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau says the pilot had noticed emus on the runway while making his landing checks and somehow forgot to engage the Cessna's landing gear.

It says a horn which usually warns of such a failure did not sound.

The bureau says the incident highlights the danger pilots can face from distractions, especially at a critical stage of flights.

It says research by the bureau has found 13 per cent of accidents between 1997 and 2004 could be attributed to pilots getting distracted during the approach stage of their flights.

It urges pilots who get distracted during their check list stage return to the start of the list to reduce the likelihood of making a mistake.


Wheels up landing involving a Cessna 441, VH-SMO, Honeymoon (ALA), South Australia on 3 September 2013

On 3 September 2013, at about 1531 Central Standard Time, a Cessna 441 aircraft, registered VH‑SMO, departed Adelaide on a charter flight to the Honeymoon airplane landing area (ALA), South Australia.

While en route, the pilot determined that the wind conditions were favorable for a straight‑in‑approach to runway 01 at Honeymoon.

During the descent, the pilot selected the first stage of flap. The pilot reported that normally he would lower the landing gear and confirm that it had been extended, but on this occasion he could not recall performing this action.

The pilot then selected the second stage of flap and established the aircraft on a 5 NM final to runway 01. When about 500 ft above ground level (AGL), the pilot commenced his pre-landing checklist. After selecting full flap, the first item on the checklist, the pilot looked at the windsock to confirm the wind and observed 4-5 emus on the right side of the airstrip. He watched them run away from the airstrip and then continued the approach, but inadvertently omitted to complete the remaining checklist items, which included confirming the landing gear had been extended. The aircraft subsequently landed with the landing gear retracted.

This incident highlights the impact distractions can have of aircraft operations, particularly during a critical phase of flight.

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