A year-long investigation has found a pilot who died while attempting to land on an unlit airstrip was under ''self-imposed pressure'' to make it home that night.DARREN LINTON July 1, 2014 3:17am
Shaun Owen, 51, the chief executive and founder of international transport and logistics company Transtech, was returning to his rural property near Dookie on June 27 last year when tragedy struck.
A family member was using a vehicle’s headlights to shine light on the private landing strip near Benalla-Boundary and Boxwood Rds.
But as the Cirrus SR22 aircraft approached, it struck a tree, inverted and crashed to the ground.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau found the pilot was appropriately licensed to operate the visual flight rules category aircraft at night and had passed several airports in the vicinity, all of which were appropriate for a night landing.
‘‘However, consistent with a degree of self-imposed pressure to get home after a series of business commitments and prior to a one-month period away from home, the pilot bypassed these airports and continued to the property airstrip,’’ the report stated.
The bureau said the airstrip did not meet the physical, lighting and obstacle clearance requirements for night operations. The final approach to land was made after last light and the bureau found the vehicle’s headlights were inadequate and provided insufficient guidance for the approach and landing and increased the risk of a collision with terrain.
Via mobile phone the relative told the pilot he was off course, but it was too late.
The plane’s wing struck trees to one side of the airstrip, flipping the aircraft and sending it nose-first into the ground at high speed.
The general safety message stemming from the investigation was night landings at inadequately lit airstrips were inherently dangerous and increased the risk of a collision with terrain and the crash was avoidable.
‘‘The requirements for the conduct of operations at night, including lighting, pilot qualifications, aircraft equipment and systems and aerodrome equipment are intended to reduce this risk,’’ the bureau’s report said.
‘‘It is likely that, had these risk controls been given effect, this accident would not have happened.’’
The pilot had renewed his licence two months earlier and reported a majority of his recent flying time had been at night.
On previous occasions he landed at nearby Benalla when returning to Boxwood after dark.
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