On 18 December 2015, the pilot of a Piper PA-31P aircraft, registered VH-OGW, operated patient transfer flights from Bankstown to Merimbula, Wagga Wagga, Griffith and back to Bankstown, all in New South Wales.

At the start of the day, the aircraft was fuelled to a total of 440 L, which the pilot entered into the on-board fuel computer. After landing at Merimbula, the pilot added fuel to a total of 650 L on board. However, the pilot inadvertently entered a figure equating to about 710 L into the fuel computer at that time, which was 60 L more than the actual fuel on board.

Prior to departing on the final sector from Griffith to Bankstown, the pilot reviewed the fuel requirements for the flight. Based on figures from the fuel computer, there was sufficient fuel on board for the aircraft to land at Bankstown with 140 L remaining; which was in excess of the minimum reserves required. Also on board for the flight from Griffith to Bankstown were a nurse and a patient.

At about 2300 Eastern Daylight-saving Time (EDT), the aircraft landed at Bankstown Airport. The following morning, prior to the first flight of the day, another company pilot dipped the aircraft’s fuel tanks, and assessed that only about 60 L of fuel remained after the previous flight. A minimum of 45 minutes of fixed fuel reserves, equating to 120 L, was required for the flight, hence the aircraft had landed the previous night with half the required fuel reserves remaining.

Accurate fuel management starts with knowing exactly how much fuel is being carried at the commencement of a flight. This is easy to know if the aircraft tanks are full, or filled to a known quantity. This incident highlights the need for pilots to use a known fuel quantity to obtain accurate fuel figures, and not rely on planned fuel consumption or a fuel calculator.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 47

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