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Airborne Edge X
Sunbury, Vic
19 December 2002

Accident Investigation Report


1. FACTS

1.1 History of Flight
The aircraft departed Point Cook at approximately 1930 hours for a flight to Mangalore. It was the pilot's intention to have a pair of floats fitted to his aircraft by a Level 2 Maintenance organisation. To this end the pilot had strapped a pair of lightweight floats to either side of the trike. This is accepted practise for carrying bulky items among the weightshift community.

The pilot gave an "all stations" call as he passed Penfield airfield and a few minutes later at approximately 2000 hours apparently suffered an engine failure approximately 4 kilometres east of Riddles Creek township.

The terrain where the pilot approached to land was unsuitable being a gully with a large number of rocks and the aircraft impacted in a steep wing down attitude with a high rate of descent.
1.2 Injuries
The pilot sustained fatal injuries.
1.3 Damage to aircraft
Aircraft totally destroyed.
1.4 Pilot in Command
The pilot was a 39 year old male.
He held a GA Private Pilot Licence.
He had a valid Class 2 medical.
He held an AUF Pilot Certificate.
He held AUF instructor qualification for three axis.
He was correctly trained and endorsed for weightshift control.

The AUF records show that the pilot had 750 hours total time all aircraft and 350 hours ultralight, there is no breakdown of the weightshift versus three axis.
1.5 Aircraft Information
The aircraft was an Airborne Edge X weightshift controlled powered hangglider. Airframe and engine hours were shown as 168 on meter, however the aircraft owner reported that these hours are 40 hours over because of the engine hour meter being left switched on early in the machine's history.
2.1 Serviceability
The aircraft was well maintained with log books being up to date with the required maintenance in order.
2.2 Weather
Nil wind, nil turbulence, local temperature approx 27 °C.

3. WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION

3.1 Location
Approx. 4 kilometres east of Riddles Creek township. S.37:29:30. East 144:42:30.

Southwest lip of gorge, steep rising ground, littered with igneous rock (common to area). Some rocks protruding out of ground to a height of some 600 millimetres. Wire fence and small to medium trees bordering the top of the gorge.
3.2 Final Flight Path and Impact Points
An eyewitness has reported that he heard the engine stop and saw the trike turn from North East to a reverse course.

On completion of the turn the aircraft was facing South West toward the top of the gorge. Heading in that direction the pilot would be looking toward the sun and into the afternoon haze. Visibility would have been severely restricted. Confronted with the wire fence and some small trees, the area immediately in front of the fence on the southern lip of the gorge rises very steeply from the creek bed and the area is strewn with rocks some reaching 600 mm above ground level. At this point it is believed that the pilot attempted a very steep right hand turn, with the intention of turning away from the rocks, possibly with the aim of landing on the creek flats well below.

Power-off, the characteristic of the trike in a steep turn is to lose height very rapidly and build up speed at an extreme rate. The trike struck the ground, wing tip first, at high velocity on the lip of the gorge and was destroyed on impact.

The two floats and other wreckage were found up to 20 metres from the impact point. As the two floats were together and showed no damage beyond that of the impact, there is no evidence to suggest that they had came loose in flight.
3.3 Controls and Structure
The aircraft base was aluminium tube construction, supported by wires with fabric seat and sides with a tricycle undercarriage and fibreglass pod. There was no sign of any pre-existing breakage prior to impact.

Wing was aluminium frame with Dacron covering and supported by wires. The Control bar attached directly to the wing. Once again there was no damage that wasn't caused by the impact.
3.4 Fuel System
The fuel tank sustained damage allowing most of the contents to leak out. The smell of fuel around the accident site points to the aircraft carrying significant fuel up to the point of impact.

The fuel filter was clean and serviceable, all fuel lines contained fuel and the fuel pump was serviceable.
3.5 Design
The trike was a commercially manufactured model of which there are many in use. There are no known design problems.
3.6 Propeller
While there was some delamination to the blades, it is consistent with the accident damage. The lack of rotational damage verifies the lack of power at the time of impact.
3.7 Engine
The engine was a standard Rotax 582 Liquid cooled two stroke and is standard equipment on this model aircraft. It was stripped and inspected after the accident. Inspection of the damage engine showed:
(i) the radiator was full of coolant;
(ii) the rotary valve oil reservoir was full and the rotary disc valve was unmarked and serviceable;
(iii) the gearbox was full of oil and was serviceable. The drive train was attached to the output shaft of the engine;
(iv) that both ignition switches were in the ON position;
(v) there was no wear on the crankshaft bearings, gudgeon pins or bearings.
(vi) that the pistons and rings showed no scuffing or wear patterns to suggest an engine seizure;
(vii) testing of the electrical system and the spark plugs showed all were operational; and
(viii) spark plugs were serviceable. (but due for replacement)

After the strip down the engine was not test run, however the inspection showed no evidence of mechanical failure of the engine, gearbox, electrics or propeller system. All the evidence points to a well maintained aircraft, supported by the log book showing regular recommended maintenance being carried out.

4. CAUSAL FACTORS

    •   Apparent engine failure as reported by eye witness and supported by eye witness account of the pilot's efforts to avoid the gorge.

    •   Relatively low height of operation due to transiting the area below Melbourne CTA steps.

    •   Degraded glide performance of the trike because of the additional drag caused by the floats.

5. CONCLUSION

The investigation was unable to discover why the engine apparently stopped. Eyewitness accounts of the pilot's efforts to avoid the area into which he was headed leave little doubt as to the fact that he had no power available.

6. ACTION FOR THE AUF

To bring to our member's attention the need for careful planning and the necessity of expecting an engine failure at any time.




"The AUF investigates accidents and incidents with the SOLE intention of preventing the same accident happening again."



Canberra

February 2003

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