First picture: Confronting view of fatal plan crash site

 

JUST hours before Wednesday's fatal plane crash in far north Queensland, the Australian Transport and Safety Bureau issued a dire warning about flying in dangerous weather.

Five men were killed when a twin-engine Cessna 404 Titan smashed into sand dunes in poor weather near Lockhart River on Cape York.

Aircraft operator Grant Sindelar told of the heartache and despair over the fatal plane crash.

The Cairns-based pilot and aircraft engineer, who owns the company Airconnect Australia and leased the crashed Cessna 404 Titan, spoke of the devastating loss of his pilot and four passengers on the ill-fated charter flight.

"It's a really tragic event,'' Mr Sindelar exclusively told The Courier-Mail.

"Everyone is really sad."

He said he was still in the dark as to how the twin-prop aircraft smashed into sand dunes on approach to the airstrip in wild weather at the remote aboriginal mission on Cape York, about 760km north of Cairns.

The Cessna 404 Titan that crashed at Lockhart River. Picture: Supplied
The Cessna 404 Titan that crashed at Lockhart River. Picture: Supplied

 

"I don't know what happened. But it's under investigation by police and the ATSB.

"Once we find out more we'll look to make a statement.''

He said he did not want to divulge any personal details about his 39-year-old pilot and the four QBuild workers, aged 63, 62, 57, and 49, all from Cairns.

"I'm really stressed and upset. We send our condolences to everyone caught up in this terrible tragedy."

A new picture showing the crash site of the Cessna 404 Titan in sand dunes near Lockhart River. Picture: 10 News
A new picture showing the crash site of the Cessna 404 Titan in sand dunes near Lockhart River. Picture: 10 News

The crash was close to where an ill-fated Twin-prop Metroliner crashed on Iron Range, near the airstrip, killing all 15 people on-board in 2005.

On Wednesday, the ATSB released its report into a fatal plane crash at Boonah, in southwest Queensland, on January 12, which killed the pilot and passenger.

In releasing the findings, the ATSB noted: "Weather-related general aviation accidents remain one of the ATSB's most significant causes for concern in aviation safety."

The crash at Boonah and the ongoing weather risks associated with flying in Queensland saw the safety authority launch a new campaign to remind pilots of the risks.

The campaign is titled 'Don't push it, DON'T GO - Know your limits before flight'.

"'Don't push it, DON'T GO' highlights three key messages: the importance of thorough pre-flight planning and having alternate plans, that pressing on where there is the possibility of entering IMC carries a significant risk of spatial disorientation, and the value of using a 'personal minimums' checklist to help manage flight risks," ATSB Director Transport Safety Stuart Macleod said.

Cape York Inspector Mark Henderson with Lockhart River Mayor Wayne Butcher at the plane crash site.
Cape York Inspector Mark Henderson with Lockhart River Mayor Wayne Butcher at the plane crash site.

Flying into poor weather without the training and experience to do so can rapidly lead to spatial disorientation when the pilot cannot see the horizon, the report continued.

"The brain receives conflicting or ambiguous information from the sensory systems, resulting in a state of confusion that can rapidly lead to incorrect control inputs and a resultant loss of control of the aircraft," Mr Macleod said.

"For pilots who fly under VFR, conducting thorough preflight planning and working to a personal minimums checklist aids sound decision-making both prior to take-off and during flight when faced with marginal weather or darkness."



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