Car Headlights Prove Inadequate For Night Landing

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A Cirrus pilot may have been confident that he could land safely on a private rural airstrip on a dark moonless night, with help from the headlights of a relative's car pointed at the runway, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in its final report (PDF) last week, but the flight ended in a fatal crash. The SR22 was on final approach to the unpaved strip, in Boxwood, Victoria, on June 27, 2013, when it hit a tree, and the pilot, who was alone on board, was killed. Several other airports with lit runways were available nearby, the ATSB said. "Likely influencing the pilot was a degree of self-imposed pressure to get home after a series of business commitments and prior to a one-month period away from home," the ATSB said.

The pilot called the relative on a cellphone to ask for the headlight approach aid, and stayed on the phone during the approach. The car was parked at the far end of the runway, with the headlights pointed down the centerline. On final approach, the relative warned the pilot over the phone that the aircraft's landing light seemed to be getting too close to the trees, but got no response. "The pilot appeared to continue the approach until the aircraft collided with a tree adjacent to the airstrip," according to the ATSB. The pilot had landed at Boxwood before, but always in daylight. The aircraft was destroyed.