Thursday, January 28, 2016

Piper PA-28-235, VH-PXD: Fatal accident occurred January 29, 2016 in Barwon Heads, near Geelong

NTSB Identification: WPR16WA062
Accident occurred Friday, January 29, 2016 in Barwon Heads, Australia, Australia
Aircraft: PIPER PA28, registration:
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On January 29, 2016, at 1155 local time, a Piper PA 28-235, VH-PXD, was ditched in the waters near Barwon Heads, Australia. The airplane was operated by a private individual under the pertinent regulations of the Government of Australia. The airplane was destroyed and the pilot and 3 passengers were fatally injured.

The investigation is under the jurisdiction of the Government of Australia. This report is for information purposes only and contains only information released by the Government of Australia. Further information pertaining to this accident may be obtained from:

Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB)

P.O. Box 967, Civic Square

Canberra A.C.T. 2608


Tel: +612 6274 6054

Fax: +612 6274 6434

Flower memorial at Point Lonsdale Lighthouse for Ian Chamberlain and Dianne Bradley.

At least three small planes set out on the convoy for King Island, taking off from Moorabbin Airport for a weekend of cheese, music and horse racing.

But one light aircraft, carrying the registration VH-PXD, did not make it across  Bass Strait.

Investigators are still piecing together the circumstances of what happened a week ago when a 1967 Piper PA-28 Cherokee plummeted into the ocean just off the Victorian surf coast without making a distress call.

On board were four friends, Daniel Flinn, Donald Hately, Ian Chamberlain and Dianne Bradley, a group of experienced aviation lovers in their 50s and 60s from Melbourne's south-east. They all died when the plane hit the water.

Among those feeling the loss are the pilots and passengers of other planes who were also due to make the short trip down to rugged King Island, a windswept place just to the north of Tasmania best known for its high-quality cheese, lobster and beef.

The loosely organised group, co-ordinated by a senior member of the Royal Victorian Aero Club, planned the flyaway to attend the Festival of King Island and the final day of horse racing for the summer.

"King Island is an easy 1½ hours each way in a Warrior [plane]," the invite read.

"Fly down to Cape Otway - a scenic run along the Great Ocean Road - to minimise the water crossing."

Some cancelled the trip after hearing about the crash. Others pressed on unaware of what had happened to the plane, which was owned by Mr Chamberlain and recognisable for its red and white livery.

One convoy member flew on about 30 minutes behind the Cherokee in his own Piper Arrow, oblivious of what had unfolded ahead and apparently untroubled by the poor weather that may have played a part in the crash.

"It does affect them, there were people who were going down on Saturday that pulled the pin," said Royal Victorian Aero Club president Stuart Rushton, who was not part of the group.

"There were others who decided to put their passengers on King Island Airlines and come back."

As the tight-knit small plane community comes to grips with the crash, bad conditions have stalled dive crews from accessing the sunken wreckage which sits on the bottom of the ocean floor about 2km off Collendina Beach in Ocean Grove.

Water Police have loaded a barge at Williamstown and hope to begin the salvage on Sunday.

Police are preparing a report for the coroner, while the Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigates what may have led to the crash.

Many are asking why a plane carrying three pilots would fly into what appeared to be deteriorating weather conditions.

Witnesses on the day reported bad weather, including pouring rain and low visibility, factors which the ATSB will investigate as well as the pilot's training and maintenance records.

Peter Lewry was fishing off Swan Bay, near Queenscliff, when he saw the plane flying low, maybe even as low as 100 metres above the ocean, and heading straight towards bad weather.

"It didn't sound like the plane was in any trouble at all, but they were flying into some really heavy weather, they were heading right into it; terrible sky and lots and lots of heavy rain," Mr Lewry said.

Aviation expert Neil Hansford, chair of Strategic Aviation Solutions, said the most common cause of plane crashes is pilot error.

"Certainly disorientation in cloud is a major contributor," he said.

"Having all that fluffy white stuff around, you can't identify things around you and the sea makes it more complicated; there's no roads or road maps."

The condition, called spatial disorientation, can happen to even the most experienced pilots.

According to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, spatial disorientation occurs when "your senses are telling you something that isn't true - typically that you are flying straight and level when in fact you are in a spiral dive". 

Who was at the controls of the Piper Cherokee when it hit the water has not been made public.

Mr Handford said a big question that needs answering is whether the pilot was trained to fly with instruments such as GPS and not solely by visual cues.

"If he's instrument rated, you feed into the GPS, no different than GPS navigation in your car," he said.

"It doesn't matter if you're flying in cloud or not."

"If he wasn't flying on instruments and he was doing VFR [visual flight rules] and he was in cloud, he'll obviously try to get out of the cloud and you've got to get below it."

In an odd coincidence, the ATSB has confirmed that the same plane, manufactured in 1967, was involved in another crash more than 25 years ago.

On a windy day in October 1988, according to an investigation report, the pilot made a rough landing after a faster-than-normal approach to the runway at Melton Airport.

There were no serious injuries in that crash but the plane, registered VH-PXD, did sustain a broken wheel assembly which allowed the propeller to strike the ground.

The ATSB says it will release the initial findings of its latest investigation in the coming months, perhaps providing some answers to families and friends.

In the meantime, a small tribute has been set up at the Point Lonsdale lighthouse:

"For a second you were flying like you all loved to do," it begins.

"Now you'll fly forever in skies of amazing blue."

Read more:

TRIBUTES have been paid to the four people who died when the light plane they were in crashed into the sea on the Bellarine Peninsula.

Danny Flinn, Don Hateley, Ian Chamberlain and his unnamed partner were on-board the plane that plunged into the ocean off Barwon Heads on Friday.

All victims were believed to be members of the Royal Victorian Aero Club at Moorabbin Airport, from where the doomed flight took off.

The three men and woman were killed when the Piper PA-28-235 aircraft crashed at 12.30pm, about 2km off Collendina Beach.

Police have recovered three of the bodies from the sea and the search for the fourth body and wreckage will resume this morning.

Regan Powell considered her next-door neighbor of four years, Mr Hateley, a friend.

Crash victim Ian Chamberlain in front of the plane.

Plane crash victim Don Hateley with his daughter Elizabeth on a previous flight.

“He was a fantastic neighbour, he’d always look after our place if we went away,” she said.

“He loved flying.”

A Moorabbin Airport business owner, who asked not to be named, paid tribute to Mr Flinn and Mr Hateley.

“I’ve known Don for more than 10 years and he was a great bloke,” he said.

“Him and Danny were always bouncing off each other.

“Don was a very experienced and well-respected pilot, so it’s a mystery as to what could have happened.”

Inspector Graham Banks said investigators would analyse data from a specialist sonar vessel and hoped to locate the plane today.

“We were hopeful of (finding the plane yesterday) because we saw the basic area where it landed,” he said.

“It’s just (about) finding the impact zone again.”

Police revealed the plane was heading to King Island when disaster struck. Air traffic controllers did not receive a mayday call.

Insp Banks said police were searching a 30m deep section of ocean — about 500sq m.

“We haven’t located the main fuselage of the plane and we haven’t located the fourth person,” he said.

“It is our belief the fourth person is still in the plane.

“Police have managed to speak to all families, at this stage they are in shock.”

Point Lonsdale resident John Joubert was out on his boat when he heard the plane moments before it crashed.

“I found a life jacket floating past my boat still in its plastic bag, so they must not have had a chance to use it,” he said.

Melbourne resident Johnny Kay said he was driving into Queenscliff when he saw a plane flying “quite low”.

“The weather was horrible — windy, raining, foggy. It was a terrible day,” he said.

“It’s horrible and devastating for everyone involved.”

The state coroner and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau are investigating.

Collision with water involving Piper Aircraft Corp PA-28-235, VH-PXD, 33 km SSE of Avalon Airport, Victoria on January 29, 2016

Investigation number: AO-2016-006

Investigation status: Active
Investigation in progress


The ATSB is investigating an accident where a Piper PA-28-235 aircraft collided with water near Point Lonsdale, Port Phillip Bay, Victoria.

Two ATSB investigators with expertise in engineering and human factors will deploy to Melbourne tomorrow morning to examine recovered wreckage components and interview witnesses. They are expected to be on site for around two to three days.

Any witnesses are requested to contact the ATSB on 1800 020 616.

Aviation safety investigation & report:

Australian Aircraft Registration Details:

Crash victim Ian Chamberlain in front of the plane.

Plane crash victim Don Hateley with his daughter Elizabeth on a previous flight.

Recovered debris from the crashed plane.

Police and SES crews continue to search for a fourth person after a plane crash between Barwon Heads and Port Lonsdale on Victoria's Bellarine Peninsula.

Four people were onboard the plane when it plunged into the ocean in poor weather off Collendina Beach, just after midday on Friday.

Three bodies were recovered from the wreckage and another person is missing, feared dead.

A 68-year-old man from Noble Park, a 55-year-old man from Mordialloc and a man and a woman aged in their 60s from Black Rock, all in Melbourne's eastern suburbs, when it took off from Moorabbin airport.

Geelong and the Surf Coast will be bustling today, with the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race people's ride expected to draw thousands of cyclists to the area, ahead of the main race on Sunday.

The course will take participants through Barwon Heads.

Inspector Graham Banks said police and the SES would search along beaches in the area for debris.

"We are expecting a number of SES volunteers together with Police to commence a search of the beach areas in and around Port Lonsdale," he said.

"We're hoping in doing that to find some debris from the plane. We've also got search and rescue and water police at the crash-site itself and we're hoping to find the main fuselage of the plane."

Inspector Banks urged anyone in the area who finds something to contact police.

"We anticipate that small items may wash up on the beach. If persons do locate such items we ask that they ring triple zero. Don't touch the item," he said.

"If you are in a boat and locate an item like this, we request that you do actually pull it out of the water and then contact police."

Police have confirmed that three men and a woman were on a light plane that crashed off the coast near Point Lonsdale on Friday afternoon.

A 68-year-old Noble Park man, a 63-year-old Black Rock woman, a 65-year-old Black Rock man and a 55-year-old Mordialloc man were on board the aircraft that took off from Moorabbin airport in the morning.

Three bodies have been recovered from the water. It is believed the fourth person was also killed, but their body is yet to be located.

Late on Friday night a Victoria Police spokeswoman said the families of the deceased people had been notified, but the bodies were yet to be formally identified.

The search of the area was called off for the night just before 8pm. It will resume again early on Saturday morning.

Inspector Graham Banks, of Geelong police, said a fisherman had seen the plane come down at 12.30pm on Friday about two kilometres off Collendina Beach, which runs between Point Lonsdale and Barwon Heads.

"He called police shortly thereafter. He was in a boat and he went out and observed that clearly a plane had impacted the water and dispersed over a wide area and there were three persons that were clearly deceased at that time," Inspector Banks said.

The witness, who was within a kilometre of the crash, heard the roar of the plane's engine before seeing it plunge on its side into the water.

Another fisherman described following an oil slick in the ocean before locating the wreckage, which had sunk to the water's bottom. He, and others, volunteered to help with grid searches to locate parts of the wreckage.

The plane flew from Moorabbin Airport, but police would not reveal where the plane was headed to. There was no distress call made by the aircraft - a six seater Piper PA-28 Cherokee.

The crash site appears to be near the wreck of the HMAS Canberra, a former navy vessel that was sunk to create a dive site in 2009. The main part of the plane has sunk about 30 metres into the ocean.

It is not yet known what caused the plane to go into the water. Two Australian Transport Safety Bureau Investigators with expertise in engineering and "human factors" will head to the scene tomorrow.

They are expected to remain there for two or three days and will examine recovered wreckage and interview witnesses.

As debris began washing ashore near Point Lonsdale on Friday afternoon, disaster victim identification police arrived along with the coroner to begin the grim forensic examination.

Boats from several organisations, including Parks Victoria, are assisting in an expanding square search from the initial site in a bid to find debris. Two air ambulance helicopters were sent in response to the crash.

Fishermen Peter Lewry and Graeme McLean said they saw a light plane flying low in the sky off the Queenscliff bay.

"We both commented to each other how low it was coming out of the rain," Mr Lewry said.

"The engine was fine; there was no coughing or spluttering."

He said the conditions for flying were bad. "It was very wet, extremely overcast," he said. 

There were no requests for emergency landing at two of the airports closest to the crash, at Torquay and Barwon Heads.

A spokesman for Barwon Heads Airport said conditions had been "marginal", and that helicopter flights from the aerodrome had been cancelled on Friday because of the weather.

Members of the Ocean Grove Surf Lifesaving Club are assisting at the scene of the crash.

The Queenscliff boat ramp will be closed on Saturday while police search the area and assess any wreckage from the crash. 

Story, video and photo gallery:

The search is continuing for a fourth person believed to have died after a small plane plunged into the ocean off the Victorian coast.

Three bodies have been retrieved from water just off Barwon Heads, near Geelong, but police say they believe a fourth person was also on the light passenger plane.

'We believe there is a fourth (person),' Inspector Graham Banks told reporters in Queenscliff on Friday.

'We don't believe any of the victims were children.'

A fisherman witnessed the plane, which took off from Moorabbin Airport, crash into the water about 12.30pm on Friday, where it remains submerged about 30m below the water, police say.

There was no distress call made by the aircraft.

The bodies already recovered, reported to be two men and a woman, are being kept on a police boat at the location as police await the arrival of Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) experts.

No further details about the bodies have been released as police have yet to contact next of kin.

On Friday afternoon the car park of the Queenscliff boat ramp was filled with local police, SES, water police and search and rescue teams, who continued to comb the shore and wade through water, gathering debris which may point to the cause of the crash.

The search zone is about 200 square metres, but may increase as the tide changes.

Victoria Police spokeswoman Creina O'Grady said the rescue effort would continue until nightfall.

'But it depends on whether they think they're close to finding something, and hence they may stay out a bit longer,' she told AAP.

The main body of the plane is expected to be brought to shore on Saturday.

Insp Banks said they were yet to establish whether the plane, which crashed about 2km off Collendina Beach - which runs between Point Lonsdale and Barwon Heads - was a private or a tourist aircraft.

The fisherman, who was just one kilometre from the crash, was still 'extremely distressed', Insp Banks said.

Police wouldn't say where the plane had been heading.

'We would have to hope the identifications of these persons and the next of kin are notified before nightfall. That is what we hope to do,' Insp Banks said.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will arrive from Canberra on Saturday to investigate the crash site.

- Story and video:

Three people have been confirmed dead, and police are searching for a fourth, after a plane crashed into the water at Barwon Heads on Victoria's Bellarine Peninsula. 

Geelong local area commander Inspector Graham Banks said a fisherman observed what is believed to be a four-seater plane crash into the sea two kilometres off Collendina Beach at 12:30pm.

"Shortly thereafter he called police who attended, the water police attended and located what was a large area of wreckage and three deceased persons," Inspector Banks said.

"Currently police are in the process of searching for further wreckage and possible other persons involved, although we don't believe there will be more than one or two persons involved at most because we believe the plane was a four-seater plane."

Inspector Banks said it was believed the plane left from Moorabbin.

Two coastguard boats and two air ambulance helicopters were dispatched to the crash scene.

Three police boats, numerous SES personnel and a number of police are also involved in the search, Inspector Banks said.

"Police are currently conducting a search of the area in conjunction with the SES and we're looking for further wreckage that may or may not wash up onto the shore," he said.

The cause of the crash is not yet known.

"At this stage we are seeking witnesses for the event, and anyone who did witness this event we would ask that they please call Crime Stoppers," Inspector Banks said.

He said if people found debris on the beach in the next few days to call triple-0 and leave it where it is.

Australian Volunteer Coast Guard in Victoria is searching for debris, and earlier said they believed the plane was a six-seater.

Three people have been confirmed dead after a light plane crashed into water in Barwon Heads, near Geelong.

Water Police, the Coast Guard and two air ambulances are at the scene after the plane crashed near Bridge Road just before 12.30pm.

Aerial images from the 9NEWS helicopter appeared to show an oil slick and debris on the surface of the water.

The plane is believed to be a six-seater aircraft. 

"Police and emergency services are currently at the scene of an incident in Barwon Heads where a plane has gone into the water," a Victoria Police spokeswoman said.

"The incident occurred just before 12.30pm near Bridge Road. At this stage we believe a number of people are deceased.

"The cause of the incident is not yet known and we will provide further details once they come to hand."

Story and photo gallery:

Visibility was 'really bad' on the water off Barwon Heads today.

Air ambulance over scene of reported plane crash near Barwon Heads, Victoria. Several passengers feared dead.

Victorian Police have confirmed an ‘unknown number’ of people have died after a plane crash Barwon Heads near Geelong.

Local media are reporting five people were killed when a small plane hit the water at 12:30pm local time this afternoon.

Two rescue helicopters have been sent to the scene and have been seen searching the area where the plane went down.

There are no further details regarding the incident at this stage.


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