Plane ‘too fast’ before fatal crash

A light plane was travelling too high and fast before a fatal 2018 crash at a remote runway in northwest Tasmania.

Sandra Southwell, an experienced aviator, died when the single-engine Cessna 182 collided with a tree while trying to land at Tomahawk on January 20, 2018. Her partner, the plane’s pilot, suffered serious injuries.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) on Friday released a report which found the plane had an unstable landing approach and was exposed to a tailwind.

The plane bounced along the runway several times before striking the tree and landing on its side.

Sandra Southwell died when her single-engine Cessna crashed at a private airstrip near Tomahawk, in the state’s northeast. Picture: ATSBSource:News Corp Australia

A preliminary report into the crash revealed the owner of the airfield wanted the pilot to abort the landing when he saw the Cessna was landing towards the west, with a tailwind he estimated to be 15 knots.

The owner drove his car onto the runway with the headlights and hazard lights on but the pilot interpreted it as an indication of where to land. The pilot tried to initiate a “go-around” but the plane clipped the tall tree.

The investigation found the pilot had not identified the direction of the local surface wind, although it was forecast.

The ATSB appropriated no blame for the crash. Picture: ATSBSource:News Corp Australia

The ATSB apportioned no blame for the crash but said it highlighted the importance of understanding weather conditions before starting an approach.

“If a safe landing cannot be assured, the pilot should abort the landing and go- around early,” ATSB executive director of transport safety Nat Nagy said. The ATSB also noted there was no windsock at the airfield.

The couple had made many flights together around Australia, had both completed a bush pilots training course and had operated at remote airfields, the report noted.

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