GPS Complacency Cited In Accident

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A pilot's sole reliance on what proved to be unreliable GPS information during an approach in IMC is being blamed for the crash of Piper Cheyenne that killed six people in Australia in 2004. A coroner has ruled that the pilot didn't check the GPS information against other navigation instruments as the Cheyenne went off course and hit a ridge near Benalla. "It is reasonable to infer that he believed that operations were normal and that in 'scanning' the array of instruments before him he focused on information from the GPS unit," Coroner Paresa Spanos said. "Taking all evidence before me into account, I find that the accident which took the lives of all six deceased was caused by navigation with the GPS in dead reckoning mode." The coroner also found that an air traffic controller failed to warn the pilot that he was deviating from his filed course.

Earlier testimony revealed the GPS unit on the aircraft went to dead reckoning mode for unknown reasons. When the plane deviated from course, the controller twice noticed it but didn't query the pilot, believing he'd picked another route to the airport. "In doing so, he contributed to the accident as there was a lost opportunity for avoidance of the accident," Spanos said. The aircraft was on a well-worn route carrying lumber executives and family members from Sydney to Benalla. Pilot Kerry Endicott had made the flight weekly for almost 25 years.