Aviation safety investigations & reports

Partial power loss - VH-­ZMK, Darwin aerodrome, NT, 25 July 2008

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 25 July 2008 at 1033 Central Standard Time a Piper PA-31-350 (Chieftain) aircraft, registered VH-ZMK was being operated on a scheduled passenger flight from Darwin to Bathurst Island, Northern Territory (NT). Moments after takeoff, the right engine began to surge and shortly afterwards, the left engine also began to surge. The pilot declared an emergency and returned to the airfield, landing short of the runway.

The investigation was unable to reconcile the pilot's report that he had selected the inboard tanks before takeoff on the incident flight with the evidence of the fuel remaining in the inboard tanks afterwards. The engine surging and power loss could be explained by fuel starvation resulting from selection of the outboard tanks that contained minimal fuel.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 2.47MB]
General details
Date: 25 July 2008   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1033 CST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Darwin aerodrome    
State: Northern Territory   Occurrence type: Engine failure or malfunction  
Release date: 14 October 2010   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Piper Aircraft Corp  
Aircraft model PA-31  
Aircraft registration VH-ZMK  
Serial number 31-8152142  
Type of operation Air Transport Low Capacity  
Damage to aircraft Minor  
Departure point Darwin NT  
Last update 14 November 2018