The stark details in the preliminary factual report in the 11 August crash of a small turboprop carrying Australians to Kokoda for the the start of their planned Kokoda track walk makes no mention of a missed approach to the awkwardly located strip.
The report, issued by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, instead describes the flight’s failures to respond to radio calls after reporting that it had begun the standard but demanding Kokoda Gap approach to the valley in which the short Kokoda dirt strip is located.
The plane, a PNG Airlines Twin Otter flown by two pilots, crashed at an altitude of 5700 feet in level flight into a steep 45 degree forested mountain near the village of Isurava and disintegrated on impact.
The 13 people on board. including a party of 9 Australian track walkers were killed in the accident. The report also makes no mention of an earlier reported conversation between the female captain of the flight and the Port Moresby tower in which she is claimed to have said ‘we have decided to climb…and are climbing.’
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A link to this YouTube video of an approach and landing at Kokoda via the Kokoda gap in comparatively fine weather for the PNG highlands was posted on Pprune.org today.
During this approach, also in a Twin Otter, the pilot breaks the approach to circle the briefly glimpsed village of Isurava, and pass close to if not over the spot where the crash occurred.
This summary of the report carried out for the PNG authorities by the ATSB links to the full 12 page document and lists areas for further investigation before a final report is issued.
At about 1055 local time on 11 August 2009, the pilot of a De Havilland DH-6 Twin Otter (Twin Otter) aircraft, registered P2-MCB, reported departure from Jacksons Aerodrome, Port Moresby on a charter flight to Kokoda, Papua New Guinea. On board the aircraft were two crew and 11 passengers. The weather in the area was forecast to include isolated showers and thunderstorms, with areas of rain. In addition, significant layers of cloud were forecast from 800 ft above ground level to 18,000 ft, with isolated embedded Cumulo Nimbus cloud within those layers.
The pilot’s estimated time of arrival at Kokoda was 1120.
The flight service operator for the area made a number of attempts to contact the pilot by radio in order to advise of other traffic but without success. At 1135, another of the company’s aircraft that was in the area advised flight service that the Twin Otter had not arrived at Kokoda.
At about 0810 on 12 August 2009, a search aircraft detected an emergency locator transmitter signal and, shortly after, visually identified aircraft wreckage on the eastern side of the Kokoda Gap, about 6 NM (11 km) south-east of Kokoda Aerodrome.
The aircraft had impacted steep, heavily-timbered terrain in a near-level attitude and was seriously damaged. The aircraft occupants were fatally injured.
The investigation is continuing and will include:
* examination of the items that were recovered from the accident site
* review of the relevant operational documentation
* review of the aircraft’s weight and balance
* review of the forecast and actual weather conditions at the time of the occurrence
* conduct of a number of interviews with relevant persons and organizations
* review of the relevant risk controls and potential organisational influences that may have contributed to the development of the occurrence.