General aviation accounted for the greatest proportion of controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents in Australia between 1996 and 2005. When compared with the total number of accidents, CFIT continues to be a rare event in the country, although when such accidents occur they result in fatalities 60% of the time, according to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
There were 27 CFIT occurrences over the 10 years in the country, resulting in 47 fatalities, according to the bureau's recently released study.
Private and business operations accounted for 14 of these, followed by charter (eight) and other aerial GA work (four). Low-capacity regular passenger transport recorded one accident - the May 2005 crash of a Fairchild Metro 23 at Lockhart River, Queensland, which resulted in 15 deaths. Fixed-wing operations accounted for two-thirds of CFIT occurrences.
The ATSB says that like elsewhere, Australia has experienced a number of significant CFIT accidents. These include crashes of a Piper PA-31T Cheyenne near Benella, Victoria, in 2004 and a Piper PA31-350 Navajo Chieftain at Mount Hotham, Victoria, in 2005, resulting in nine fatalities.
The ATSB found that the highest number of CFIT accidents - 63% - occurred in the approach phase, with 53% of these involving an instrument approach and the bulk of these (67%) involving satellite-based instrument approaches.
Enroute accidents (19%) were next, followed by manoeuvring and initial climb (7% each). Some 59% of incidents occurred in reduced visibility conditions. Only one aircraft was fitted with a ground proximity warning system and it could not be determined during the crash investigation whether that was working.
The international aviation community has focused its CFIT reduction efforts on large passenger aircraft, even though CFIT affects all sectors, notes the ATSB.
There should be a continued focus on developing preventative strategies to reduce the risk of CFIT, it says. The availability of area navigation global navigation satellite system approaches and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast, which Australia is implementing, may further reduce the risk of CFIT, adds the bureau.