On 3 March 2011, an Aero Commander 500-S aircraft, registered VH-WZI, departed Horn Island for Cairns, Queensland on a charter flight with one pilot on board. The purpose of the flight was to transport live crayfish.
The aircraft was about 56 NM (104 km) north of Cairns when the pilot reduced the power to slow the aircraft for operational reasons. Following the reduction in power, the pilot observed a reduction in performance in the right engine, which he believed was due to a fuel blockage.
The pilot was unable to clear the blockage and declared a mayday. He elected to descend towards the coast line away from high terrain as the aircraft was unable to maintain height. The right engine was shut down and the right propeller feathered after the aircraft was clear of high terrain. The aircraft was diverted to Bloomfield River aeroplane landing area.
As a result of this incident, the operator advised the ATSB that they have amended their planned flight route from Horn Island to Cairns, with aircraft now required to track via Cooktown to remain clear of high terrain. The operator also informed all of their safety critical personnel about the incident, and has ensured they are aware of fuel blockage issues with the Aero Commander.