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Unstable approach sent Airvan into the sea at Rat Island

written by Staff reporter | October 26, 2023

This GA8 Airvan overshot a runway on Rat Island in April 2023. (Image: Shine Aviation Services/ATSB)

Excess height and airspeed caused a charter Airvan to overshoot a runway on Rat Island in April, the ATSB has found.

The crash, which saw the Shine Aviation Services light aircraft VH-TBU end up nose-down in the water, resulted from an unstable approach after the pilot chose not to perform a go-around. Nobody was injured in the incident.

“An unstable approach can contribute to the risk of a runway excursion, as occurred in this case,” ATSB director of transport safety Stuart Macleod said.

“Pilots should be prepared to conduct a go-around if the stabilised approach criteria are not met. The later a go-around is made, the more likely that additional hazards will be present for pilots to manage.”

The investigation also found that the pilot may have been suffering from fatigue when the incident occurred, having slept only 5.5 hours the previous night and 11 hours out of the past 48, and having not eaten since 5pm the day before.


“There was evidence that the pilot was possibly experiencing mild to moderate acute fatigue at the time of the occurrence. This was due to a combination of some restricted sleep in the previous 24 and 48 hours, and lack of sustenance that morning,” the report said.

“However, it is difficult to conclude whether fatigue impaired the pilot’s actions in response to identifying the unstable approach and electing not to conduct a go-around.”

On the morning of 6 April 2023, the GippsAero GA8 Airvan with a pilot and six passengers onboard departed from Geraldton Airport for Rat Island, part of the Houtman Abrolhos Islands archipelago.

During the landing, the aircraft floated for a significant time and touched down approximately halfway down the runway, with insufficient remaining runway to stop. The pilot reported applying heavy braking, however, the aircraft traversed the runway overshoot area and came to rest on the island’s edge, tipping forward into shallow seawater.

Neither the pilot nor the 6 passengers were injured during the landing or when evacuating the aircraft.

ATSB analysis of recorded data from the aircraft and video footage taken from the front passenger seat showed the aircraft was unstable during the approach to land, due to excessive height and airspeed.

Since the accident, the operator, Shine Aviation Services, has taken safety actions to improve pilot landing and late-stage go-around training for their single- and multi-engine piston aircraft.

An increased oversight program has also been implemented to provide more regular mentoring for junior flight crew.

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