Aviation safety investigations & reports

Fuel starvation event - Bell Jetranger 206B helicopter, VH-JTI, Coomera, QLD, 10 June 2009

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 10 June 2009, at about 1545 Eastern Standard Time, the pilot of a Bell Jetranger 206B helicopter, registered VH-JTI, was conducting a 20-minute scenic flight, with four passengers, from a helipad at an entertainment facility at Coomera, Queensland.

After about 15 minutes flying, the fuel boost pump low pressure (FUEL PUMP) warning light illuminated briefly. The pilot believed he had sufficient fuel on board and continued the flight. While the helicopter was descending to land at the helipad, the FUEL PUMP warning light illuminated again and shortly afterwards the engine lost all power.

During the final stages of the autorotative landing, the pilot was unable to arrest the helicopter's descent rate and the helicopter struck the ground heavily, resulting in substantial damage. Two passengers sustained serious injuries; the other two passengers and the pilot were uninjured.

A subsequent check of the helicopter and its fuel system showed that the fuel gauge may have been over reading. The operator's practice when calculating the quantity of fuel to be added during refuelling relied on the fuel gauge reading, without using an independent method to crosscheck that reading against the actual fuel tank quantity.

The investigation found that the helicopter departed with insufficient fuel to complete the flight. The low fuel quantity and manoeuvring combined to uncover the fuel boost pumps and the engine was starved of fuel. The helicopter's low speed, height and rotor RPM at that time precluded a safe landing from the subsequent autorotation.

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Alternate: [Download  DOC: 3.21MB]


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Safety Issue

Go to AO-2009-026-SI-01 -

Independent fuel check procedures

The operator did not have a procedure in place to ensure independent cross-checking of the helicopter's fuel quantity.

Safety issue details
Issue number: AO-2009-026-SI-01
Who it affects: The aircraft operator
Status: No longer relevant
General details
Date: 10 June 2009   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1550 EST   Investigation level: Systemic - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Coomera    
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Fuel starvation  
Release date: 15 July 2011   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Serious  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Bell Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model 206  
Aircraft registration VH-JTI  
Serial number 771  
Type of operation Charter  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Dreamworld, Qld  
Destination Dreamworld, Qld  
  Crew Passenger Ground Total
Serious: 0 2 0 2
None: 1 2 0 3
Total: 1 4 0 5
Last update 03 April 2020