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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|Date:||10 June 2009||Investigation status:||Completed|
|Time:||1550 EST||Investigation level:||Systemic - click for an explanation of investigation levels|
|State:||Queensland||Occurrence type:||Fuel starvation|
|Release date:||15 July 2011||Occurrence category:||Accident|
|Report status:||Final||Highest injury level:||Serious|
|Aircraft manufacturer||Bell Helicopter Co|
|Type of operation||Charter|
|Damage to aircraft||Substantial|
|Departure point||Dreamworld, Qld|