Rossair plane crash that killed three pilots near Renmark blamed on high-risk manoeuvre

Three experienced pilots killed in a crash in South Australia’s Riverland almost three years ago were flying too low when they carried out a high risk training manoeuvre, an investigation has found.

The twin-engine Cessna Conquest aircraft owned by charter company Rossair was on a training flight from Adelaide when it crashed in scrubland near Renmark Airport on 30 May 2017.

Inductee pilot Paul Daw, 65, Rossair’s chief pilot Martin Scott, 48, and Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) flying operations inspector Stephen Guerin, 56, were all killed.

In a report released today, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) found no fault with the plane, which crashed after an attempt to simulate the failure of one engine after take-off at just 400 feet above the ground.

“This meant that there was insufficient height to recover from the loss of control before the aircraft impacted the ground.”

Wreckage of the Rossair flight which crashed and killed three people including the airline’s chief pilot in SA’s Riverland in 2017.(ABC News: Tom Fedorowytsch)

The report said the pilots lost control about 40 seconds after initiating the simulated failure, which it described as a “high-risk exercise with little margin for error”.

“As there were no technical defects identified, it is likely that the reduced aircraft performance was due to the method of simulating the engine failure, pilot control inputs or a combination of both,” the ATSB said.

Mr Daw and Mr Scott were at the Cessna’s controls, as the senior pilot conducted a proficiency check on the inductee.

These three men died in the Rossair crash near Renmark.
Martin Scott, Paul Daw and Stephen Guerin were killed in the crash.(ABC News)

The report found both had limited experience in the plane, which “probably led to a degradation in the skills required to safely perform and monitor the simulated engine failure exercise”.

The more experienced CASA flying operations inspector, Mr Guerin, was sitting behind the pilots and had “reduced ability to actively monitor the flight and communicate any identified problem”.

While not necessarily contributing to the accident, the ATSB found the chief pilot, Mr Scott, and other key Rossair staff were experiencing high levels of workload and pressure during the months leading up to the accident.

The bureau said the investigation was hampered by a lack of flight data, leaving little evidence available about pilot handling and the communication between the three men in the cockpit.

The plane was not required to be fitted with either a black box or cockpit voice recorder.

Rossair grounded its fleet after the crash, and the company was placed into administration the following year.

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