On 15 October 2011 at about 1800 Eastern Standard Time, a Cessna Aircraft Company 182P, registered VH-TIS (TIS), departed Ayr, Queensland on a private flight within the local area. On board were the pilot and five passengers.
Shortly after commencing descent from 1,000 ft into Ayr Aircraft Landing Area (ALA), the pilot noticed a bird to the left of the aircraft, followed almost immediately by an impact with the windscreen. The bird penetrated the windscreen, causing it to shatter.
The pilot reported feeling an impact on his face, followed by a strong wind and loud noise through the cockpit. He attempted to determine the engine performance and aircraft controllability. The pilot selected full power and experimented with different attitudes to establish where the greatest airspeed could be maintained. The maximum performance the pilot was able to obtain was a slow descent at 60 kts in a nose-high attitude. The pilot recalled that in that attitude TIS displayed signs of pre-stall buffeting.
As the pilot was unable to maintain altitude, on approaching 200 ft above ground level (AGL), the pilot decided to conduct a forced landing. He decided not to lower the flaps during the approach as he was concerned about a deterioration of the aircraft’s handling characteristics if he changed configuration.
Due to the nose-high attitude, the pilot could not see towards the front of the aircraft, however he observed a cane field to the left and selected this as a suitable landing area.
About 15 seconds prior to landing in the cane field, the pilot briefed the passengers to move as far forward as possible to lessen the deceleration force on landing. The passengers were wearing parachutes as part of a training exercise and were restrained by a single-point restraint attached through the webbing in the parachute.
The pilot felt that the aircraft was approaching the pre-stall buffet as he came into land. He recalled that the rudder controls felt “mushy” and the control column was almost at full backstick.
The pilot flew through the cane rather than trying to land on the ground in order to reduce the deceleration forces. TIS came to a stop and the pilot and passengers were able to exit the aircraft through the jump door and the windscreen. The pilot and passengers sustained minor injuries.
The bird remains suggested it may have been a Magpie Goose.
The pilot did not observe any bird activity in the area prior to departure or during the flight. The pilot reported that birds are seldom seen at the airport, however other airport users had seen birds near the airport recently.
The airport operator reported that birds are occasionally seen at the airport, however there had been no reported problems with wildlife. There was no requirement for an aerodrome bird hazard management plan at Ayr ALA as it was not a certified aerodrome under Part 139 of the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Regulations.
The pilot had about 220 hours total flying experience, 180 hours on the 182 and 13,000 skydiving jumps. He reported that for the past 14 months he had operated TIS weekly while conducting sky-diving operations.
The pilot commented that the practice forced landing exercises conducted during his private pilot licence training played a vital role in the safe outcome of this event. He also noted that his instructor had advised him that cane fields could be potentially suitable forced landing fields and he used this knowledge to determine a suitable landing area.
The pilot also recalled that he had taken an active interest in aircraft accidents and this helped him in considering different strategies during the event. The pilot had seen an aircraft accident investigation documentary which had shown a damaged aircraft lose control after lowering of the flaps and he was mindful of that possibility during the approach.
Following the birdstrike, the pilot focused on maintaining control of the aircraft. The decision to make a controlled landing into a cane field resulted in a safe outcome for all on-board.
While it is difficult to prevent birdstrikes, a number of proactive measures can be taken by both pilots and airport operators to reduce the risk. These include not flying at times of known high activity (usually dusk), looking for bird activity in the vicinity of the airport prior to departure and actively reducing bird attractants (water and food sources) from the airport surroundings.
The Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) issued a report titled ‘Bird strike mitigation beyond the airport’. The report stated:
While general aviation aeroplanes typically do not have the same engine ingestion concerns as transport category jets, their overall design and certification make them much less able to resist damage from bird strikes. Mid-size to large birds can penetrate the windshields and can cause pilot incapacitation or disorientation, resulting in loss of control. The drag caused by the loss of the windshield has also resulted in accidents because enough thrust is not always available to overcome the huge drag increase.
Although it is not always practical, the report suggested the following technique for manoeuvring clear of birds:
If birds are encountered en route, on climb or descent, the flight crew should pull up – consistent with good piloting technique – to pass over the birds. Birds may turn or dive as avoidance manoeuvres, but they rarely climb. So pulling up is the best and fastest avoidance manoeuvre.
AO-2011-133: VH-TIS, Birdstrike
Date and time: 15 October 2011, 1800 EST
Location: Ayr, Queensland
Occurrence category: Accident
Occurrence type: Birdstrike
Aircraft registration: VH-TIS
Aircraft manufacturer and model: Cessna Aircraft Company 182P
Type of operation: Private
Persons on board: Crew – 1 Passengers – 5
Injuries: Crew – 1 (minor) Passengers – 5 (minor)
Damage to aircraft: Serious