Aviation occurrence briefs

Engine failure involving a Bell 206B, near Yarraden (ALA), Qld, on 22 September 2018

Status: Completed
Investigation completed


Occurrence Briefs are concise reports that detail the facts surrounding a transport safety occurrence, as received in the initial notification and any follow-up enquiries. They provide an opportunity to share safety messages in the absence of an investigation.

What happened

On 22 September 2018 at approximately 0613 Eastern Standard Time, a Bell B206 helicopter had departed from a remote location near Yarraden, Queensland. There was one pilot and three passengers on board to conduct a local scenic flight.

Approximately 6 minutes after departure, the engine flamed-out[1]. The pilot observed the engine out light was flashing on the engine instruments. The pilot subsequently conducted an autorotation[2] and landed hard resulting in substantial damage to the aircraft. The pilot was uninjured and three passengers sustained minor injuries.

The evening prior to the flight, a support pilot refuelled the helicopter to the sufficient amount for the first flight of the day, to 260 litres. The refuelling was from a drum using an electric fuel pump and PF10-CS water absorbing filters. The support pilot did not inspect the fuel filter bulb at the completion of the refuel due to the lack of ambient light.

Prior to first light on the morning of the flight, the pilot conducted a pre-flight inspection and conducted a fuel drain of the drain points. The pilot inspected the drain and identified it as a liquid that was clear and consistent with no evidence of mixing. The pilot did not test the sample and discarded the liquid.

The drum used to refuel the aircraft the previous evening was inspected. No fuel remained, but 2–4 centimetres of water was identified in the fuel pump filter bowl.

Safety message

Section 5 of the Civil Aviation Order 20.2 Air service operations states that the operator and pilot in command must ensure relevant inspections and tests are made for the presence of water in the aircraft fuel system.

The Order provides the following tips:

“It is important that checks for water contamination of fuel drainage samples be positive in nature and do not rely solely on sensory perceptions of colour and smell, both of which can be highly deceptive. The following methods are acceptable:

  1. Place a small quantity of fuel into the container before taking samples from tank or filter drain points. The presence of water will then be revealed by a visible surface of demarcation between the two fluids in the container.
  2. Check the drainage samples by chemical means such as water detecting paper or paste, where a change in colour of the detecting medium will give clear indication of the presence of water”.

About this report

Decisions regarding whether to conduct an investigation, and the scope of an investigation, are based on many factors, including the level of safety benefit likely to be obtained from an investigation. For this occurrence, no investigation has been conducted and the ATSB did not verify the accuracy of the information. A brief description has been written using information supplied in the notification and any follow-up information in order to produce a short summary report, and allow for greater industry awareness of potential safety issues and possible safety actions.



  1. Flame-out: Flames extinguishing in the combustion chamber of the engine, shutting it down and no longer driving the propeller.
  2. Autorotation: A condition of descending flight where, following engine failure or deliberate disengagement, the rotor blades are driven solely by aerodynamic forces resulting from rate of descent airflow through the rotor. The rate of descent is determined mainly by airspeed.
General details
Date: 22 September 2018   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0620 EST    
Location   (show map): Near Yarraden (ALA)    
State: Queensland    
Release Date: 29 April 2019   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Minor  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Bell Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model 206B  
Type of operation Charter  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Near Yarraden, Queensland  
Last update 09 October 2020