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What happened

On the afternoon of 17 July 2016, two pilots departed Bridport Aerodrome in Tasmania in an amateur-built, Europa Aircraft Classic registered VH-BWI and operated in the experimental category. The ownership of the aircraft had recently been transferred and the purpose of the flight was a familiarisation flight for the new owner. After flying to the north-east of Tasmania, the aircraft returned to Bridport and completed two touch-and-go circuits. Shortly after take-off on the third circuit the engine spluttered for a short time, before stopping completely. A forced landing was conducted in a nearby paddock. One pilot sustained spinal injuries and the aircraft was moderately damaged.

What the ATSB found

There was inadequate communication between the pilots, which resulted in VH-BWI departing Bridport Aerodrome with no defined flight plan, no pre-flight brief and each pilot believing the other was in command. The lack of a flight plan prevented the pilots from ensuring there was sufficient fuel and reserves available to ensure safe flight. In addition, in-flight fuel monitoring was not sufficient to identify low fuel quantity and ensure fuel supply to the engine was not interrupted.

The ATSB also identified instances of misinterpretation of a number of the regulations concerning the maintenance of amateur-built experimental aircraft. This has the potential to affect the safety of this aircraft and those on board.

Safety message

All flights, even those conducted for private purposes, should be conducted with due consideration of operational needs and requirements, including appropriate experience, training and licencing on type. This accident highlights the importance of pre-flight planning. Pilots should ensure that every flight is appropriately planned for, utilising accurate flight times and fuel calculations. Once airborne, the continual monitoring of time and remaining fuel should be conducted. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) published Civil Aviation Advisory Publication (CAAP) 234 Guidelines for aircraft fuel requirements, which recommends private, visual flight rules (VFR) flights plan for 45 minutes of fixed fuel reserves.

Good communication between pilots, observing recommended operating procedures and effective flight planning, will all help to reduce risk and enable safe flying.

Finally, ongoing safety requires aircraft owners and maintainers to operate and maintain the aircraft in accordance with relevant regulations, including those specific to experimental aircraft.

Photograph VH-BWI

VH-BWISource: Tasmanian Police

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The occurrence

Safety analysis


Sources and submissions

Appendix A – Fuel system additional information


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General details
Date: 17 July 2016 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 15:25 EST  
Location   (show map):near Bridport Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Tasmania Occurrence type: Engine failure or malfunction 
Release date: 01 August 2017 Occurrence class: Technical 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Accident 
 Highest injury level: Serious 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Amateur Built Aircraft 
Aircraft model: Europa 
Aircraft registration: VH-BWI 
Serial number: V265 
Type of operation: General Aviation-Unknown 
Sector: Piston 
Damage to aircraft: Minor 
Departure point:Bridport Aerodrome, Tasmania
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Last update 01 August 2017