Aviation safety investigations & reports

Fuel starvation involving a Lancair ES, VH-DFH, 22 km NW Mansfield (ALA), Victoria, on 18 April 2016

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Final Report

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On 18 April 2016, at about 1030 Eastern Standard Time, a Lancair ES aircraft, registered VH-DFH, was taxiing to depart from a private airstrip about 22 km NW of Mansfield (ALA), Victoria. The pilot was the only person on board the private flight.

After conducting an engine run-up, the pilot taxied the aircraft to take-off towards the east on the sealed strip. The pilot reported that the engine run-ups, taxi, and take-off were normal. During the initial climb, at about 500 ft, the engine suddenly lost power and the pilot established the aircraft in a glide, reducing the throttle and looked for a suitable forced landing area. Some engine power returned but was very intermittent and the engine was not producing the correct power for the engine control settings.

They assessed that sufficient height was available to return to the airstrip so commenced a turn to the left.

The pilot lined up with the airstrip landing towards the west. As the pilot considered that the aircraft had good height and speed, the pilot elected to extend the flaps half-way and subsequently extended the flaps to the full down position as the pilot was concerned that the aircraft would overshoot the airstrip.

The aircraft touched down about 25 m before the threshold on a grass area. The aircraft bounced slightly, touching down again on the grass area beside the airstrip. The left wing contacted an electric fence post and came to a stop a further 100 m after the initial touch down point. The pilot exited the aircraft after turning off all the electrical and engine controls. The pilot was not injured and the aircraft had minor damage.

The ATSB booklet Avoidable Accidents No. 3 - Managing partial power loss after take-off in single-engine aircraft is available from the ATSB website and aims to increase awareness among flying instructors and pilots of the issues relating to partial power loss after take-off in single-engine aircraft.

The booklet highlights the importance of:

  • pre-flight decision making and planning for emergencies and abnormal situations for the particular aerodrome including a thorough pre-flight self-brief covering the different emergency scenarios
  • conducting a thorough pre-flight and engine ground run to identify any issues that may lead to an engine failure.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin- Issue 52

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General details
Date: 18 April 2016   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 10:30 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): 22 km NW Mansfield (ALA)    
State: Victoria   Occurrence type: Engine failure or malfunction  
Release date: 28 September 2016   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Amateur Built Aircraft  
Aircraft model LANCAIR ES  
Aircraft registration VH-DFH  
Serial number 044  
Type of operation General Aviation-Unknown  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Minor  
Departure point Mansfield, Vic.  
Destination Yarrawonga, Vic.  
Last update 14 November 2018