A well-known North Queensland grazier who died in a helicopter crash was urged not to continue his flight twice before he crashed while flying at night, an investigation has revealed.
Kenneth ‘Keda’ Anning, 84, was piloting a Robinson R22 helicopter in the state’s remote north at night despite not being qualified to fly after daylight when he crashed on February 11, 2021.
The helicopter wreckage was found a day later just off Pretty Plains Camden Park Road north of Hughenden.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said the incident highlighted the inherent risk of night flying in remote areas without the qualifications to do so.
Mr Anning had been flying from his station at Reedy Springs, southwest of Townsville, to an area nearby to look for family members.
He became lost after attempting to return to Reedy Springs and landed at Camden Park Station, then Wongalee Station, to refuel and get directions.
“Different individuals at both stations suggested the pilot discontinue the journey, due to poor weather conditions and degrading light,” ATSB Director Transport Safety Dr Stuart Godley said.
“However, the pilot elected to continue to their planned destination, taking off from Wongalee five minutes before last light.”
Conditions on the night of the fatal crash were overcast, and just 1 per cent of the moon was illuminated, according to the report.
The ATSB found Mr Anning, who was the sole occupant on the helicopter when it crashed, was not qualified for night flight.
Despite this he continued flying in a remote area after last light, the report said, using an unlit road to find his way home.
Investigators said the likelihood of the crash was caused when the helicopter crashed to the ground because Mr Anning was likely flying at low-level following local roads for navigation.
The bureau determined that 29 minutes after last light the helicopter hit a powerline, which resulted in a loss of ground lighting in the direction of flight.
“Then, shortly after turning to follow an unsealed road in overcast, moonless conditions, the helicopter departed the road after a bend, before flying over open grassland and colliding with trees and terrain in a left bank, nose-down attitude” Dr Godley said.
Investigators found the severed powerline – which had been supplying electricity to a nearby station – further reduced the amount of ground lighting available to Mr Anning.
Dr Godley said the accident highlighted the inherent high risk of night flying in remote areas, especially for those unqualified.
“Based on the nature and location of the wirestrike, and accident location, it was very likely that the pilot was flying at a low altitude, tracking over a sealed road, then an unsealed road, in an effort to navigate back to their property,” Dr Godley said.
“Day visual flight rules (VFR) pilots need to plan to arrive at their destination at least 10 minutes before last light – and to not take off after this time under any circumstances.”
Story Credit: news.com.au