On 2 August 2014, the pilot of a de Havilland DHC-2 (Beaver) aircraft, registered VH-AWI, calculated the fuel required for two return charter flights from Shute Harbour to Whitehaven Beach, Queensland as specified on the company schedule for that day.

The pilot planned to fly one group of passengers to Whitehaven Beach, return solo to Shute Harbour, and take a second group of passengers to Whitehaven Beach. The pilot would then wait at Whitehaven beach before returning to Shute Harbour with the first group of passengers. The pilot would then return solo to Whitehaven Beach, collect the second group of passengers and return to Shute Harbour. During the planning, the pilot had omitted to include the solo ferry flights in the fuel calculations.

During the final flight to Whitehaven Beach, the pilot realised that he had planned for two return flights and omitted to allow additional fuel for the two empty sectors. He expected to land back at Shute Harbour with about 7 minutes of fuel remaining and elected to collect the passengers from Whitehaven Beach and return to Shute Harbour as planned.

The pilot landed the aircraft close to the passenger pick-up point to reduce taxi time, collected the passengers for the flight and conducted a short taxi and take-off for the estimated 12 minute flight. The aircraft landed at Shute Harbour and the pilot and passengers disembarked. About 6 L of fuel was in the tank when the aircraft landed, significantly less than the required 50 L reserve. 

This incident highlights the importance of establishing a known fuel status regularly and the impact distractions can have at critical times including during flight planning.

Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin - Issue 35