Aviation safety investigations & reports

Ditching, 980km north-east of Hilo, Hawaii, USA, VH-CZE

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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At 1323 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) (0623 US Pacific Daylight Saving Time), on 9 June 2006, a Piper PA-44-180 Seminole aircraft, registered VH-CZE, departed Santa Barbara, California, USA, for Hilo, Hawaii. The aircraft was one of two Seminoles that were being ferried in-company to Australia under the instrument flight rules. At about 2050 UTC, the pilot in command advised US Air Traffic Services that the left engine had failed and that the aircraft would have to be ditched as the aircraft was 7 hrs from Hilo but only had 5 hrs of fuel endurance remaining. At about 0145 UTC, the aircraft ditched 980 km north-east of Hilo. The pilot and co-pilot exited the aircraft uninjured and were rescued by a nearby ship. The aircraft sank and was not recovered.

The pilot reported that more fuel was being drawn from the ferry fuel tank than was expected. In addition, a 5 cm x 1 cm scorch mark could be seen just above the landing gear observation mirror on the left inboard engine cowl. Following discussions with the pilot of the accompanying Seminole, the pilot decided to shut down the left engine. Prior to ditching, the pilot restarted the left engine to prevent an asymmetric situation on touchdown.

As a result of this occurrence, the aircraft operator has advised the Australian Transport Safety Bureau that:

  • In conjunction with their US maintenance provider, they were continuing inquiries with respect to the interaction of the ferry fuel tank system and the fuel selector positions fitted to the aircraft and system management.
  • They intended to change the ferry flight procedures to use more fuel from the aircraft wing fuel tanks and then periodically top-up those tanks from the ferry fuel tank, using the aircraft fuel contents gauges as a guide.
Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 583KB]
General details
Date: 09 June 2006   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0145 UTC    
Location   (show map): 980km NE Hilo Aero.    
State: International   Occurrence type: Fuel systems  
Release date: 17 May 2007   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Piper Aircraft Corp  
Aircraft model PA-44  
Aircraft registration VH-CZE  
Serial number 4496212  
Type of operation Aerial Work  
Damage to aircraft Destroyed  
Departure point Santa Barbara, USA  
Departure time 0623  
Destination Hilo, Hawaii, USA  
Crew details
Role Class of licence Hours on type Hours total
Pilot-in-Command Commercial 150 5635
Co-Pilot/1st Officer Private 15 250
Last update 18 April 2018