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On 1 August 2016, at about 0830 Western Standard Time, a Cessna 172 aircraft, registered VH-WKB, departed from Cape Leveque ALA, Western Australia. The pilot (owner) and one passenger were on board the private flight.

Prior to departure, the pilot had checked the amount of fuel in the aircraft’s fuel tanks with a dipstick and estimated there was about 50 litres of fuel remaining. The pilot planned a one hour coastal sightseeing flight to Broome, using a five knot headwind component, at a fuel flow of 35 litres per hour.

About one hour and five minutes into the flight, the pilot heard the engine make a ‘bit of a cough’ and noticed the fuel gauges were indicating empty. The pilot identified a clear section of straight road ahead, broadcast a MAYDAY call and landed the aircraft on the Manari road, about 30 km north of Broome airport. There were no injuries and the aircraft was not damaged.

The pilot had not realised that shortly after departure, the headwind component had increased and the actual fuel consumption was greater than planned. This serious incident highlights how several factors, which on their own were not critical, combined on the day to result in a critical situation for the pilot.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 53

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General details
Date: 01 August 2016 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 0950 WST  
Location   (show map):30 km N of Broome Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Western Australia Occurrence type: Low fuel 
Release date: 14 October 2016 Occurrence class: Operational 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Serious Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Cessna Aircraft Company 
Aircraft model: 172H 
Aircraft registration: VH-WKB 
Serial number: 17256002 
Type of operation: General Aviation-Unknown 
Sector: Piston 
Damage to aircraft: Nil 
Departure point:Unknown
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Last update 18 April 2017