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Missing NSW plane found crashed in forest west of Coffs Harbour


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10 hours ago, RossK said:

So a non current pilot departs with no charts, no EFB, no weather information, no flight plan lodged.

Purposely decends into IMC (not IFR tained either) and flys into the ground.

And it's ATC fault?

 

 

ATC is supposed to make travel as safe as possible, even for pilots who do the wrong thing. That’s how come a finding was against ACT even though the pilot was wrong. This way of looking at things is at the heart of aviation safety. 
 

Also, saying it was determined to be ATC’s fault is a straw man. 
 

Also, the point you made would have been understood by the people doing the report. They get it, don’t worry. 

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I don't think it's a case of 'blaming' ATC per se.  But the issue of the unnecessary dangers posed by the Coffs airspace arrangements have been debated for years.  (And, indeed, as the ATSB report not

I flew down to Parkes from South Grafton that morning and passed about 30NM west of the crash site at around 9:00am. On takeoff cloud was low and broken at about 1000 and as I climbed and flew south w

Replace those two victims with you and your missus then. Or me and the KRviatrix. Yes, he was uncurrent, and "legally" should not have been there. But it wasn't his technical skills as a pilot that br

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The performance of the pilot and ATC are two unrelated issues. The approach and departure fans for coffs seem very large and oriented inland over the rising terrain almost like a block to VFR aircraft.

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Sorry but i see the blaming of ATC here as a “we need to have someone to blame” issue. They did not make the command decision to commence flight when they shouldn’t have. They did not make the decision to commence descent. They did not depart on a marginal weather that day without even bothering to get a met forcast or use and up to date Nav database. We go on and on about ADM and single pilot resource management yet we blame the ATC when someone fails to use either of them. The fact is the ATC were right to deny him the clearance (although they didn’t know it) as that

pilot in that day in those conditions had no right to share the airspace with anyone! It annoys me no end  when we can’t call something what it is and have to look elsewhere for blame.  

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In my experience ATC almost always goes out of their way to be helpful and accommodating. Shining a spotlight on the bad operators and promoting/supporting the good ones would only benefit aviation. In this case they failed and contributed to a double fatality. The Airspace overlay was also a contributing factor and of course the pilot but if you force aircraft low over tiger country this outcome is inevitable.

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Regardless of all other circumstances, IF ATC did that to me I would simply turn around and fly back in the direction I came from and advise ATC of my intentions.

The controller was not ‘in’ the plane to see exactly what the conditions were.

I have trained in that area and it’s indeed rugged and no place for emergency landing.

IF I got hung out to dry by the regulators on landing, so be it but everyone would still be alive with an undamaged aircraft.

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Surely a simple nonstandard “can you advise how long until clearance is available? I am unable to proceed in VMC” May have promoted the controller to evaluate what was going on? 

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He was offered a very safe and direct route, coastal at 1000 feet but refused. The decision was his to fly inland in class G over rugged terrain and then descend into IMC conditions. Defies all logic.

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8 minutes ago, kgwilson said:

He was offered a very safe and direct route, coastal at 1000 feet but refused. The decision was his to fly inland in class G over rugged terrain and then descend into IMC conditions. Defies all logic.

Not so sure he could have complied from where he was,  he needed to turn back immediately and then reassess, the coastal route may have been more easily accessible?

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I don't think it's a case of 'blaming' ATC per se.  But the issue of the unnecessary dangers posed by the Coffs airspace arrangements have been debated for years.  (And, indeed, as the ATSB report notes, reform is on the way.)

 

For example, on this forum in a 2014 thread named  RPL from Sep 14 CASA fact sheet:

 

Camel

At lunch time Coffs becomes a CTAF and before and after day hours, the fact that when the controller is not there you are allowed to transit as a CTAF, the reasoning is a little bizarre, you would think it would be safer with a controller. There is no heavy traffic through Coffs and no reason why all aircraft could transit. I owned a hangar at Coffs for many years and transit a bit these days (with PPL in LSA plane ), and they like you not above 1000' and over water, it is a very easy procedure at Coffs as all landmarks are well defined and radio is minimal, it would be very easy to be trained to use coffs airspace to transit. The controller mostly keeps RPT over land and light aircraft over water also gives inbound light aircraft runway 10 to keep them off the big runway. I can not see any reason to let all aircraft transit Coffs and with increased safety as the West side of Coffs is not good terrain and usually cloud covered.

 

Port Macquarie is just as busy as Coffs and I believe it is busier, it is not control and has easy access around, I would like Airservices to explain that and Casa might try explain the safety issues in forcing people west of Coffs through Less than ideal conditions.

 

There is no will by Airservices or Casa and no way they want to listen, they want everyone to do what they say and blame safety issues on those not doing as told. Anyone who transit Coffs Coastal is taking the safer option. SURELY safety is important.

 

 

And this CASA discussion paper of a decade ago:

 

Aeronautical Study of Coffs Harbour March 2010 (Draft for industry consultation)

 

https://www.casa.gov.au/sites/default/files/_assets/main/lib100008/aero-study-coffs-draft.pdf?acsf_files_redirect

 

Extract:

"The report makes the following seven recommendations: 1. CASA to liaise with Airservices to investigate and where necessary address the perception that ATC staff are over servicing Class D airspace."

 

 

And this from Australian Flying April 2019

 

https://www.australianflying.com.au/latest/airservices-moves-to-modernise-airspace

 

  •  Currently the airspace over Class D towers is Class C, but under Airservices plan that will be reclassified as Class E. (Airservices Australia)
 
 

Airservices moves to Modernise Airspace

25 April 2019
 

Airservices Australia is to push ahead with changes to airspace architecture through Tranche 3 of its Airspace Modernisation Program.

 

The five initiatives are:

  1. Re-classify Class C airspace to Class E airspace at Albury, Alice Springs, Coffs Harbour, Hamilton Island, Hobart, Launceston, Mackay, Rockhampton and Tamworth
  2. ....... ////

 

      ..... Currently Class C airspace is placed over Class D, which means that both VFR and IFR aircraft need an airways clearance to transit overhead the airport. With Class E sitting over the Class D, VFR aircraft will no longer need a clearance to overfly the field, but IFR aircraft will.

Airspace design over Class D towers has been a contentious issue for several years.

 

 

And this sample from the Pprune debate on the issue soon after the accident:

 

  21 Sep.  2019
I wonder if this is Bindooks “ giant roadblock airspace” again.
Was the pilot attempting to keep out of the C airspace?
Most pilots would prefer to fly coastal if the road block was not there!
I have met pilots who don’t have the confidence to request and comply with a clearance through C!
  #8 (permalink)  
 21 Sep.  2019
Quote:
Looking at some discussion on Facebook on this, and the conversation pretty quickly went to how "difficult" ATC makes it to get clearance through C and D at Coffs, "forcing" pilots over tiger country.

Class E over the top will fix that quick smart.

 

 

And, by way of standing up for the best efforts of individual controllers:

 21 Sep.  2019
I have been through Coffs Harbour control area at least 100 times, never had anything but polite and courteous controllers happy to do anything they could.

Probably 10 of these transits were in a 50 knot 2 stroke ultralight aircraft.....

Just tell them what you are flying, where you are, what you want to do and where you are going. They will lead you step-by-step through the entire transit knowing that it is much safer for you to pass on by them to go inland. Many other times I transited in much faster aircraft but with the same hospitality expressed including a couple of times strong recommendations from the tower do not continue, land and have a coffee for a few hours break and wait for the weather to clear.

I adamantly say that their local knowledge and advice saved my life once when I wanted to push on thinking I knew better and they told me you will only get a few minutes past the airport and made a wall of water and they were right. You cannot beat local knowledge (and a weather radar before we had them on iPads).

I am happy to tell anyone this, no matter how little experience you have, there is nothing wrong or to be scared of contacting these guys, they are more than happy to help you at any time.
Edited by Garfly
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18 hours ago, SplitS said:

AHaving flown there quite a bit I don't understand why he did not use the coastal route once ATC denied his request. However it's not my local stomping ground.

It was a Swiss cheese crash 1-ATC, 2-stupid airspace restrictions and 3-complacent pilot. But with 1 and 2 failing, 3 was just waiting to happen.

With the amount of stupid over regulation I don't think any of us can say we are 100% sure we are flying legal.

 

To travel coastal past Coffs you still need a clearance. They used to be very hesitant to issue clearance coastal, if there was any traffic within a bulls roar they would deny. I have even been given a verbal bollicking for landing long at Coffs. I landed long into the North to avoid taxing, They preferred I landed on the piano keys and spent the next 15 minutes taxing back in the hot sun. The easiest way to transit Coffs is wait till the tower shuts down.

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M Coates said

"I have been through Coffs Harbour control area at least 100 times, never had anything but polite and courteous controllers happy to do anything they could."

 

I have been to and through Coffs many times, the times ATC made it easy were in the minority. I have struck that with most areas with ATC. The only times ATC make it easy is when I'm flying a Bomber on fires, they can't do enough to help then.
 

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I have never been denied clearance coastal at 1000 or below. Just call at a reporting point eg Red Rock provide normal info & request coastal transit. Technically illegal for RA but they don't ask for your PPL status (I do have PPL but not current) even when RPT is around. You may get asked to orbit till one comes or goes but that's it.

 

The rules though should change. ATC are being helpful, responsible & promoting safety even if they are technically breaking the law. If I was heading to say Kempsey & called at Red Rock & they said Nah go via class G & it was clear down the coast, no RPT around (normal) & cloud inland with tops in the cloud I'd either have to take the risk or go back.

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When the Mooney was refused Class C & given the coastal 1000 feet option he was about 4000 feet above the Pacific Highway near Grafton. All he had to do was turn left and begin descent following the main road to Woolgoolga arriving there at 1000 feet & then track down the coast. Simple and safe.

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I was wondering if he might have been reluctant to descend at all; towards the east or the west, since he was, apparently, cruising in the clear above a 'broken' (up to 7/8) layer which extended out to sea and all around.   Maybe the western option looked safer at the time.

 

From the ATSB report:

 

"The top of the broken low cloud layer was approximately 3,000 (±1,000) ft AGL"

148485056_SATPICCOFFSWX.thumb.png.c8a4330792fa0e0111dce58160bae642.png

 

 

From the ATSB report:

 

"The graphical area forecast for the accident region [showed] ...

• broken stratus between 1,000-2,000 ft

• broken stratocumulus between 2,000-4,000 ft

• scattered cumulus between 4,000-9,000 ft

 

Satellite images for the area just prior to the accident time showed generally clear conditions between Murwillumbah and Grafton. South of Grafton and throughout the area encompassing the high terrain west of Coffs Harbour, the images showed extensive cloud coverage. Further along the intended route towards Taree, the cloud coverage reduced near the coast, but persisted inland."

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Putting aside the pilots errors, (Many!) ... ATC here cops the blame for me.  I reckon the pilot  should have declared an emergency. - Smoke in the cockpit sounds good ? immediate clearance into Coffs would be granted.   Then, he can man up and face the chin music that he deserves on the ground, but alive.

 

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39 minutes ago, Garfly said:

 

 

 

I was wondering if he might have been reluctant to descend at all; towards the east or the west, since he was, apparently, cruising in the clear above a 'broken' (up to 7/8) layer which extended out to sea and all around.   Maybe the western option looked safer at the time.

 

From the ATSB report:

 

"The top of the broken low cloud layer was approximately 3,000 (±1,000) ft AGL"

148485056_SATPICCOFFSWX.thumb.png.c8a4330792fa0e0111dce58160bae642.png

 

 

From the ATSB report:

 

"The graphical area forecast for the accident region [showed] ...

• broken stratus between 1,000-2,000 ft

• broken stratocumulus between 2,000-4,000 ft

• scattered cumulus between 4,000-9,000 ft

 

Satellite images for the area just prior to the accident time showed generally clear conditions between Murwillumbah and Grafton. South of Grafton and throughout the area encompassing the high terrain west of Coffs Harbour, the images showed extensive cloud coverage. Further along the intended route towards Taree, the cloud coverage reduced near the coast, but persisted inland."

He probably was over broken cloud. I left home at Corindi Beach at 7:30am and the cloud was 6-7 Octas but there were plenty of holes to descend through. I arrived at South Grafton at about 8:05am & there were still blue patches but it did appear to be thickening. The plane was already prepared, fuelled etc so I made my call to Quirindi & got airborne at 8:30am. There were still blue holes but fewer of them.

 

He'd been flying over clear ground pretty much all the way from Murwillumbah & his mindset was on getting class C clearance. I'd have taken the coastal any day of the week even turning around to find a hole to go down through. For whatever reason he chose to go inland staying in class G though clipping class C on the way. At that stage there was cloud ahead and to both sides as far as his horizon & without knowledge of how far away there was clear sky to the ground the risk level immediately jumped a lot.

 

I had no such problem. I knew it was crystal clear at Quirindi. The cloud gave way to clear sky by the time I passed Walcha but it was 8/8 cloud to the South and East horizons from 8500 to 9000 feet.

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Should have gone  Coastal right from the start......too late now, the rest is history 😞

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I disagree. Going coastal implies a climb to cruise, descent to low level mid-flight, and climbing back to cruise altitude. That should not be necessary to get through an empty parcel of Class C. P or R, yes, but not C - particularly in a relatively high performance GA single.

 

Ol' mate was screwing up by the numbers, no argument, but I'd put the proximate cause of this accident at the feet of the ATCO. He denied a clearance "just because". There was no traffic, no weather, and no ASA procedure that required him to do so, he just "did".

 

ASA is Australia's Air Navigation Service Provider. If they can't (or won't) provide a service to GA/VFR then pi$$ them off and get some FAA-types who will.

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I agree there was no reason he should have been denied class C access but for unplausable reasons they did. Coastal at 1000 though was offered and that meant visibility once he'd descended to that height. Descending into IMC as happened I cannot fathom at all.

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I guess this pilot was just like so many other fatal VFR aircrashes in IMC - "I'll just keep going, there'll be a hole here soon, which will allow me to see where I am".

A complete failure to understand cloud formations, a failure to closely check potential weather changes, and a failure to understand what weather with a high moisture level content does, in the vicinity of 3500' peaks.

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I'm guessing that the reported gap between the stratus and stratocumulus layer (each with holes) suckered him in. He might have felt that he needed to descend quick to pick up the "not above 1000" clearance on the south west side of Coffs and might have been over-nervous about clipping the (forbidden) steps again.  But in any case, if those layers converged quickly then he was in trouble (and no last seconds declaration of emergency would have helped.)

It's a life lesson for us all; we do well to distinguish between existential threats and imaginary ones. (Between rocks, say, and mere convention.)

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31 minutes ago, kgwilson said:

I agree there was no reason he should have been denied class C access but for unplausable reasons they did. Coastal at 1000 though was offered and that meant visibility once he'd descended to that height. 

I don't think coastal was specifically offered, only implied. The report says no tracking information was given, only that a clearance would be available "at or below 1000 feet".

 

Coastal would have been 10 miles left of track, whereas 5 miles right of track would have taken him around the airspace at his 6500 cruising level. He seemed to be going right of track and around the airspace before being offered at or below 1000 feet.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 21/01/2021 at 11:04 AM, Student Pilot said:

M Coates said

"I have been through Coffs Harbour control area at least 100 times, never had anything but polite and courteous controllers happy to do anything they could."

 

I have been to and through Coffs many times, the times ATC made it easy were in the minority. I have struck that with most areas with ATC. The only times ATC make it easy is when I'm flying a Bomber on fires, they can't do enough to help then.
 

Above or below A045? Ie. in towers or en-routes airspace?

 

Also how do you mean made it difficult?

 

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