Solo training flight stall-spin accident highlights potential consequences of deviating from safety-critical procedures

Accident site

Key points:

  • Student pilot initiated a low-level go-around;
  • Aircraft deviated from the runway centreline, stalled and commenced a spin, before impacting the ground;
  • Student pilot had very limited experience in the Bristell aircraft type;
  • Flying school’s flight dispatch procedures were not followed.

The student pilot of a Bristell aircraft that stalled and commenced a spin before colliding with the ground was not authorised to conduct the flight and did not have the necessary qualifications and skills to safely operate the aircraft, an ATSB investigation has found.

The student pilot had departed Melbourne’s Moorabbin Airport on the morning of 12 December 2019 to conduct a series of circuits in the Bristell in what was their first solo flight in the aircraft type.

Just after crossing the runway threshold for the first touch-and-go landing, witnesses observed the aircraft suddenly pitch up. The left wing then dropped, bank angle increased to the point where the aircraft became inverted, and the aircraft entered the first half rotation of a spin entry. The aircraft’s nose then dropped before it impacted the ground adjacent to a taxiway in a steep inverted attitude.

The student pilot was severely injured in the accident, and the aircraft was substantially damaged.

The ATSB’s investigation found that the pilot commenced a go‑around at low level when the aircraft deviated from the runway centreline in a crosswind (the crosswind component was subsequently calculated to be about 13 kt, within aircraft performance limitations).

During the go‑around, the aircraft aerodynamically stalled and commenced a spin.

“The ATSB identified that the student pilot did not have the necessary qualifications and skills to safely operate the Bristell aircraft solo,” said ATSB Director Transport Safety Stuart Macleod.

“The student had undertaken only one supervised training flight in the Bristell, and that flight, which was curtailed due to deteriorating weather conditions, did not include any go-arounds, crosswind landings or stall training.

“Consequently, the student pilot’s familiarity with the Bristell was very limited.”

All the student’s previous flying had been undertaken in the Aeropakt A-32 Vixxen, a lower-performance aircraft with a different configuration and handling characteristics compared to the Bristell.

“The Bristell exhibits different handling characteristics to the other aircraft type the student pilot had previously operated,” said Mr Macleod.

“Specifically, instructors reported that the Bristell is less docile and has a stronger tendency to pitch up when engine power is applied for a go-around.

“Instructors also reported that the Bristell has less elevator authority to counter the nose-up effect and a greater tendency to drop a wing during a stall.”

Even though the student pilot believed they were instructed, and authorised, to conduct a solo flight in the Bristell, the ATSB found that the student pilot did not follow the operator’s solo flight dispatch procedures, including not endorsing the aircraft’s maintenance release, and not undertaking the required solo flight briefing and sign out procedure with a flight instructor.

“Familiarity with an aircraft’s specific systems, controls, handling and limitations is essential for safe flight,” said Mr Macleod.

“That is why safety-critical procedures and regulations are in place to ensure that pilots have the required level of skill and experience to safely operate an aircraft.

“The outcome of this accident, which could just as easily have been fatal, illustrates the potential consequences of deviating from safety-critical procedures and regulations.”

Subsequent to the accident, the flying school operator, Soar Aviation, advised the ATSB that they had revised procedures to ensure an aircraft could not be taken by a student for a solo flight, either deliberately or inadvertently.

The flying school ceased operations in December 2020.

You can find here the report: Loss of control and collision with terrain involving BRM Aero Bristell S-LSA aircraft, VH-YVF, Moorabbin Airport, Victoria on 12 December 2019

Last update 05 May 2021

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