L2017-04 Aviation accident at Lievestuore in the municipality of Laukaa on 19 July, 2017.

An aviation accident occurred at Lievestuore in the municipality of Laukaa on 19 July, 2017, when OH-PAD, a Piper J3C-65 Cub Mod crashed into the woods during its final approach. The pilot, who was the sole occupant of the airplane, died in the accident.

The pilot of the Piper intended to take off for Lapland from the private Riitakorpi landing strip together with the pilot of a Kitfox aircraft. Their plan was to first check the flying weather from the air and then, if they decided to continue the flight, to file a flight plan in the air by radio to Jyväskylä Control Tower. Immediately after take-off the pilots saw that the weather was poor in the direction of their intended route. They decided to abort the flight and return to wait for the weather to improve.

The Kitfox pilot landed first and waited for the Piper to land. During the base turn the Piper’s airspeed decreased and its sink rate increased. The pilot added power and the airspeed grew momentarily. At the end of the base turn the aircraft collided with an approximately 25 m tall tree and, after being airborne for an additional 110 m, crashed into the woods. By now the pilot of the Kitfox was getting worried and decided to drive by car to the fields west of Riitakorpi landing strip to check whether the Piper had made an emergency landing there. After doing that the pilot of the Kitfox called Jyväskylä Control Tower and reported a missing aircraft.

The Jyväskylä tower controller reported a missing aircraft to the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre (ARCC). The ARCC launched an aerial search and rescue (SAR) operation and reported the occurrence to Vaasa Emergency Response Centre (ERC). The ERC alerted units from the Central Finland Rescue Department, the Central Finland Health Care District and the Central Finland Police Department.

The SAR flights did not find the missing airplane. The weather was poor and the woods were dense and tall in the area. A person who happened to walk by spotted the missing aircraft in the woods before the actual search in the terrain had even begun.

The investigation established that flight operations from Riitakorpi landing strip were challenging even in good conditions. Risk levels grew markedly as a result of strong winds and poor visibility. Following the airspace reform of 2014 Riitakorpi’s traffic pattern remained partially within the area of Jyväskylä Control Zone and close to the busy VFR reporting point TARVA. From the viewpoint of launching a correctly-timed and effective search in the terrain, the instructions for procedures and command responsibilities for the police and the ARCC during aviation accidents were not clear.

The low ceiling and the rapidly approaching rain front from the west were the most likely reasons for the exceptionally tight and short landing pattern. In order to evade the worsening weather conditions the pilot expedited the approach. The excessive weight of the airplane and a tailwind made it more difficult to fly the base leg. Despite increasing engine power the collision avoidance manoeuvre which was done when the Piper first hit the trees rapidly resulted in a high angle of attitude. The airplane went into an asymmetric stall and the low altitude made it impossible to recover the aircraft. No technical issues that could have caused the accident were found during the inspection of the wreckage.

On the basis of the investigation Safety Investigation Authority Finland issues three safety recommendations:

Finnish Transport Safety Agency should require sport aviators to report the flight activities taking place at private land areas and other temporary airstrips located near controlled airspace to ANS Finland’s flight information services.

The National Police Board and the Finnish Transport Safety Agency, together with ANS Finland, should review the contents of the Aeronautical Search and Rescue Manual of ANS Finland as well as the National Police Board’s guide “Aviation accident/search and investigation associated with a missing person" so that they are harmonised and clear with regard to command responsibilities and launching searches in the terrain without delay at the stage when SAR flights are being flown.

ANS Finland draw up a series of standardised questions to be used by the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre (ARCC) during full emergencies and aircraft accidents.

l Report (in Finnish) L2017-04 (pdf, 2.49 Mt)

Published 14.5.2018