Aviation safety investigations & reports

Total power loss - Cessna 152, VH-HCE, near Bankstown Airport, NSW, 26 September 2011

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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At 0835 Eastern Standard Time on 26 September 2011, a flight instructor and student pilot in a Cessna Aircraft Company 152, registered VH-HCE, was operating at Bankstown Airport, New South Wales, on a training flight.

After a series of simulated rejected takeoffs, the aircraft departed runway 11 to conduct circuits. After completion of the second touch and go, at a height of approximately 200 ft, the engine gradually lost power. The instructor resumed control, and with minimal runway remaining, and engine power further reducing, identified a suitable grassed landing area. The instructor declared a MAYDAY to air traffic control and positioned the aircraft for an emergency landing.

After the main wheels contacted the ground, and just prior to nose wheel contact, the engine power suddenly increased. The instructor reduced the throttle to idle and continued with the landing. As the nose wheel contacted the ground it detached, the aircraft nosed-over and slid a short distance before coming to rest inverted. The instructor and student vacated the aircraft with no injuries.

A subsequent inspection identified a quantity of water in the right fuel tank that probably entered the tank via the right fuel cap receptacle following a period of heavy rain. Immediately following the accident the operator conducted a fleet check, identifying an additional aircraft with water contamination in the fuel.

As a result of this occurrence, the aircraft operator advised the ATSB that they were taking the following safety actions:

  • Instructor training on fuel system in Cessna aircraft type operated by the company;
  • Student information sessions on water contamination incidents; and
  • Compulsory instructor training.

This accident highlights that following periods of heavy rain, extra vigilance is needed during pre-flight checks to ensure that fuel is free of contamination.

Download Final report
[Download  PDF: 4.43MB]
General details
Date: 26 September 2011   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0900 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): near Bankstown Airport    
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Fuel contamination  
Release date: 14 March 2012   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model 152  
Aircraft registration VH-HCE  
Serial number 15283791  
Type of operation Flying Training  
Damage to aircraft Serious  
Departure point Bankstown, NSW  
Destination Bankstown, NSW  
Last update 14 November 2018