On 31 December, 2010 a Cessna Aircraft Company C404 Titan aircraft, registered VH-LAD, departed Alpha Airport, Queensland, to conduct two survey flights. Onboard the aircraft were the pilot and two navigators. The intention was to climb to a flight level of 16,000 ft, conduct two survey runs and then land at Emerald, Queensland. Nearing the completion of the first survey run, the pilot noticed a fluctuation in the left fuel flow and decided to land at Emerald. The pilot calculated that he still had 300 L of fuel onboard, but did not check the fuel gauges.
Shortly after, both engines failed and the pilot lowered the landing gear. After securing both engines, the pilot reduced airspeed to 115 kts which gave a 1000 ft/min descent rate and at 14,000 ft the aircraft was 17 NM from Emerald. The pilot then transmitted a PAN call informing air traffic control of their position. With both propellers feathered the pilot made a forced landing at Emerald Airport. After landing, the pilot checked the aircraft fuel gauges which showed the tanks as empty.
In response to this occurrence, the aircraft operator implemented the following proactive safety actions:
- This incident was raised as the topic of safety during the January 2011 internal safety meeting.
- An emergency response plan has been developed, implemented and tested ensuring company management and staff can react quickly in the unlikely event of an incident or emergency
- All aircrew are participating in an aviation approved crew resource training management course. Training records will be published in relevant pilot record files.
- Fuel totalisers are scheduled for fitment in both 400 series Cessna aircraft operated by the company to provide a more accurate means of establishing fuel used and quantity remaining.
- The operators managing director has raised this serious safety incident, with the board of directors of the parent company and has taken steps to reinforce the existing proactive movement towards safety, implemented within both companies.