On 6 July 2012, a Gippsland Aeronautics GA-8 Airvan aircraft, registered VH-FCK, departed Tennant Creek on a night training flight to Alice Springs, Northern Territory.
When in the cruise, the crew noticed that the engine oil pressure indication was dropping and, as a result, they began planning for a diversion to the Ti Tree aeroplane landing area (ALA). Soon after, the engine oil pressure light illuminated, necessitating an immediate landing. The crew then diverted to the ALA and attempted to activate the runway pilot activated lighting (PAL), without success.
When abeam the township of Ti Tree, the engine began to run rough and subsequently failed. The crew then noticed a vehicle travelling on a road to the north of the town. They elected to abandon the landing at the unlit ALA, and following the vehicle’s lights, carried out a successful landing onto the Stuart Highway, 4 km north of the township.
The engine was removed from the aircraft and the assessment at the time of writing this report was that the failure was a result of a No. 6 connecting rod, big end cap bolt failure.
One of the greatest concerns for pilots operating single-engine aircraft is the prospect of a total power loss at night. Should such an event occur, it is crucial that pilots are mentally prepared to act immediately. This incident demonstrates how responding to an adverse situation promptly can result in a positive outcome.