On 19 June 2012, at about 0815 Eastern Standard Time, a Cessna Aircraft Company 182P aircraft, registered VH-WTS, departed Mayvale Station, about 53 km east-north-east from Cunnamulla, Queensland. Shortly after becoming airborne, the pilot recalled the aircraft losing airspeed and then clipping a tree during the subsequent forced landing. The aircraft collided with the ground and came to rest inverted.
The pilot, the only occupant, was seriously injured and the aircraft was destroyed. The pilot was wearing a seat belt at the time, but had not used the shoulder harness. The pilot and aircraft were located about 3 hours after the accident following a search. The aircraft’s Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) had not activated and the pilot’s personal ELT was inaccessible.
The day before the accident flight, the pilot refuelled the aircraft from drum stock kept as an emergency fuel supply. The pilot did not test the drum fuel for water or contamination. Following the accident, a considerable amount of water was found in a number of fuel samples taken from the aircraft, and in a sample taken from the drum.
This accident highlights a number of safety messages, including that:
- pre-flight checks, including checking samples from all fuel drain points, are a vital barrier in reducing the likelihood of power loss after takeoff;
- aviation fuel stored in drums should be checked before use for water and other contaminants;
- aircraft occupants should fasten available restraints, both seat belt and shoulder harness, where provided, for takeoff and landing;
- pilots are encouraged to leave a flight note with a responsible person as discussed in the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP); and
- survival equipment should be carried on the person so that it is readily available when most needed.