Aviation safety investigations & reports

Loss of engine power and forced landing involving amateur built Europa, VH-BWI, near Bridport Tasmania, on 17 July 2016

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Final Report

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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

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 2.98MB]

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   Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): near Bridport    
State: Tasmania   Occurrence type: Engine failure or malfunction  
Release date: 01 August 2017   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Serious  

Aircraft details

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  
Last update 14 November 2018