Airlines PNG Twin Otter Kokoda Track crash
On 11 August 2009 a de Havilland DHC 6-300 Twin Otter, registration P2-MCB, collided with terrain six nautical miles south-south east of Kokoda, Papua New Guinea.
The aircraft was on a charter flight from Port Moresby (Jacksons Aerodrome) to Kokoda, carrying 11 passengers and a compliment of two crew. The passenger manifest indicated there were a tour group of nine Australians who were being positioned at Kokoda to walk the Kokoda Track, a Papua New Guinean mine worker returning home on a rest break, and another foreign national businessman from the local area.
The ARFOR for the intended flight issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) Forecasting & Warning Centre in Port Moresby had a forecast period valid from 0900 to 2100 UTC.
The ARFOR indicated forecasts of isolated showers and thunderstorms with areas of rain. Significant cloud layers at estimated base levels of 800ft with tops of 18,000ft AMSL. Isolated Cumulo Nimbus (CB) or thunderstorm clouds were also forecasted reaching to tops of 45000 ft. Freezing levels (FZL) were estimated at 15,500 ft AMSL with moderate to severe turbulence within the vicinity of the CB and cumuliform (CUF) clouds.
Kokoda is an isolated location and the airstrip does not have on-site weather observations facilities to record and report actual weather to substantiate weather forecasts generated for the strip. Forecasts are generated from chart analysis and infrared (IR) satellite imagery.
On the morning of the accident, there were a number of aircraft operating between Jacksons Aerodrome and in and around the Kokoda area. The Flight Service operators on duty later reported that their sector was busy with aircraft either diverting back to Jacksons or holding due to weather.
The crew of the accident aircraft lodged their standard flight plan with the CAA briefing office, nominating an estimated departure time of 1010 for a return flight to Kokoda with a fuel load of 1,200 lbs. The aircraft subsequently reported taxiing at Jacksons at 1049 bound for Kokoda. The crew reported departure at 1055 climbing to 9,000 ft, and estimating Kokoda at 1120.
At 1108.33, the flight crew reported to Flight Service on VHF frequency 120.9 MHz that they were cruising at 9,000 ft. The crew was advised that the area QNH was 1,011 hPa. The allocated HF radio frequencies for their Kokoda arrival report were 5565 (primary), or 6622 (secondary). The flight service area VHF frequency at the time was congested with some transmissions being over transmitted by a number of other aircraft in the same area, which resulted in a series of exchanges between the flight crews of those aircraft, and of the accident aircraft. The other aircraft were reporting their arrival at Efogi and departure from Kokoda respectively. At 1110, the flight crew of P2-MCB reported leaving 9,000 ft on descent to Kokoda via the Kokoda Gap, which is approximately 12 nm south-east of the Kokoda airstrip.
At 1114, Flight Service called P2-MCB a number of times to provide a traffic advisory on another aircraft, but there was no response. From 1124 until 1130, a number of attempts were made to contact P2-MCB but there was still no response. A phone call received by Flight Service from the company subsequently advised that the aircraft had not arrived on the ground at Kokoda. Other aircraft in the area attempted calling P2-MCB until another company aircraft advised Flight Service at 1135 confirming that P2-MCB had not arrived.
The Rescue Coordination Centre was activated and at 1136 an ALERFA (Search and Rescue Alert Phase) was declared. There were no reports of any ELT signals being received in the area, which resulted in a DISTRESFA Search and Rescue phase being declared at 1225.
On Wednesday 12 August 2009, there were a number of search aircraft operating in the area, one of which detected an ELT signal at approximately 0810. The wreckage was visually located shortly afterwards on the eastern side of the Kokoda Gap and approximately 6 nm south-east of the Kokoda airstrip There were a number of witnesses in the area who reported hearing the sound of an impact but who were unable to sight the aircraft due the overcast cloud conditions.
It was subsequently determined that the aircraft had impacted steep, heavily-timbered terrain in a near level attitude. The wreckage trail was spread through the terrain over approximately 100 metres in an Easterly direction with the aircraft’s cockpit/cabin area totally destroyed.
The accident was not survivable.
(video embedded from YouTube on 18 September 2009)
Want to know more?
- Australian Transport Safety Bureau
- Read the full Interim Report here.