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.