On 25 October 2011, a Cessna Company Aircraft 172, registered VH-PHV, departed Dairy Creek Aeroplane Landing Area (ALA), Western Australia for a private local area flight. The pilot was the sole occupant of the aircraft.
The flight was conducted to inspect a number of paddocks on Bidgemia Station, about 35 minutes flight time from Dairy Creek ALA. Prior to departure the pilot determined there was 80 litres total fuel on-board and then used an estimate of 30 litres/hour for fuel burn calculations.
Once reaching the paddocks, the pilot conducted land and cattle inspections for about 2 hours and 40 minutes before the engine failed due to fuel exhaustion. The pilot conducted a forced landing and the aircraft was seriously damaged after impacting with trees, however the pilot was not injured.
The pilot stated that he did not conduct a formal fuel plan prior to the flight. During the latter stages of the flight, the pilot experienced a higher workload and forgot to return to a landing area to refuel.
This accident highlights the vital importance of pre-flight planning. Pilots should ensure that every flight is appropriately planned with accurate flight times and fuel calculations. CASA recommends private, visual flight rules flights should plan for 45 minutes of fixed fuel reserves.