A light plane which crashed near Canberra last year, killing both men on board, stalled due to its slow speed and banked turn, a safety investigation has suggested.
- A plane stalled and crashed near Sutton, NSW, in April last year, killing the two men inside
- Men were inspecting power lines
- Investigators found the plane was probably traveling too slow for the turn its pilot was attempting
The pilot, 31, and his passenger, 18, had inspected power lines during their three-hour flight on April 13, 2021.
Witnesses saw the plane go down and crash at around 4.30pm just north of Sutton, a village in New South Wales near the ACT border.
A witness told the ABC that the plane, a Cessna 172 belonging to Oberon Aviation Services, was spinning before touching down.
The impact killed the men and destroyed the aircraft.
An analysis of the incident released today by the Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB) suggested the plane was flying too slowly for the sharp turn the pilot was attempting.
Flight data and eyewitness accounts indicate that the aircraft banked sharply to the left just before its engine stalled.
The ATSB report says investigators “assessed that the final turn was likely made at a relatively high bank angle and closer to the aircraft’s stall speed.”
“As the maneuver continued, the aircraft likely exceeded the wing’s critical angle of attack, causing the wing to stall aerodynamically,” he said.
The plane was too low to the ground when it stalled for the pilot to regain control, the ATSB found.
Investigators considered whether the pilot’s final maneuver was an attempt to evade the birds, but found “insufficient evidence to determine whether this may have influenced the turn”.
It was also possible that the aircraft encountered turbulence just before its final turn, even though the wind was light at the time.
ATSB Transportation Safety Director Stuart Macleod said the investigation reinforced for pilots “the importance of managing airspeed and bank angle to minimize the risk of a stall”.
“This is particularly important when working close to the ground, such as during low altitude aerial work, as well as during takeoff and landing, as recovery may not be possible.”
The findings did not blame the pilot or the operating company.
Oberon Aviation Services has since modified its operations to include additional training for pilots who conduct low-level surveys of power lines.