Aviation safety investigations & reports

Cessna Aircraft Company 402, VH-RJH

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


The owner/pilot of the Cessna 402 was conducting a check circuit following the installation of a repaired engine-driven fuel pump. He occupied the left control seat. The intended lessee, who was also a pilot, occupied the right control seat.

A witness observed the aircraft fly downwind on a left circuit for runway 18 and complete what appeared to be a normal base turn. When the aircraft was on final approach, with the landing gear extended, it briefly pitched nose up and yawed left before the nose pitched down and the yaw was corrected. The aircraft then rapidly lost altitude and crashed into scrub short of the airport boundary fence and approximately 200 m from the runway threshold. Both occupants sustained serious injuries. The intended lessee later indicated that both engines had ceased operating almost simultaneously when the aircraft was on final approach. He said that he then moved both fuel selectors from main tanks to auxiliary tanks.

The aircraft was examined shortly after the accident. Very little fuel remained in any of the four fuel tanks. Three days later, after the aircraft was removed to a maintenance facility, the fuel tanks were drained. The amount of fuel recovered from each tank was measured as follows:

Left main: 2.50 US gallons / 9.5 litres
Left auxiliary: 2.75 US gallons / 10.45 litres
Right auxiliary: 3.0 US gallons / 11.4 litres
Right main: 1.25 US gallons / 4.75 litres

Total 9.5 US gallons / 36.1 litres

The aircraft was equipped with optional 20 US gallon auxiliary fuel tanks. The Cessna 402 Pilot's Operating Handbook stated that the total unusable fuel for this configuration was 3 US gallons, consisting of 1 US gallon in each main tank, and 0.5 US gallons in each auxiliary tank.

Both engine-driven fuel pumps were removed for testing. They functioned correctly. The engine-driven fuel pump from the left engine had been re-installed the day before the accident after being repaired. During subsequent engine ground runs, maintenance personnel noted that the fuel gauges indicated less than 5 US gallons in each main tank. Although there was a small amount of usable fuel recovered from the main tanks, it is possible that aircraft attitude changes during the approach allowed the relatively small amount of fuel remaining to move away from the fuel pick-up points inside the main tanks, thereby starving the engines of fuel.

No documentary or witness information was found to suggest that the aircraft had been refuelled after the engine runs were completed, and prior to conducting the check circuit. Two witnesses stated that

General details
Date: 18 May 2001   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0728 hours EST    
Location   (show map): Maroochydore/Sunshine Coast, Aero.    
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Collision with terrain  
Release date: 24 June 2002   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Serious  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model 402  
Aircraft registration VH-RJH  
Serial number 4020023  
Type of operation Private  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Maroochydore, QLD  
Departure time 0725 hours EST  
Destination Maroochydore, QLD  
Crew details
Role Class of licence Hours on type Hours total
Pilot-in-Command Private
  Crew Passenger Ground Total
Serious: 1 1 0 2
Total: 1 1 0 2
Last update 13 May 2014