Aviation occurrence briefs

Fuel system leak involving Mooney M20J, near Murray Field Airport, WA, on 7 October 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 7 October 2018 at 1130 Western Standard Time, the pilot of a Mooney M20J aircraft was conducting a private flight from Bunbury to Jandakot, Western Australia.

En route to Jandakot, the pilot observed indications of mechanical problems with the aircraft. The pilot assessed that the engine performance was erratic.

Rather than proceed with the planned flight, the pilot elected to divert to Murray Field Airport, to perform a precautionary landing. The pilot determined that, were he to continue toward Jandakot airport, his options to perform a forced landing closer to his destination would become more constrained. The pilot also assessed that his current location afforded a number of suitable sites for forced landing if necessary, and was away from built-up areas.

The pilot landed the aircraft at Murray Field Airport, approximately 60 km south of Jandakot. There was no reported damage, and no injuries.

A post-flight inspection revealed that a flexible fuel line under the cowl had come loose. This lead to reduced fuel flow to the engine and fuel leakage. The cause of the fuel line becoming loose was not determined.

Safety message

This incident highlights the importance of maintaining awareness of aircraft systems performance. Because the pilot noted indications of erratic engine performance, he was able to take the positive action of diverting the aircraft. Flight crews are reminded that mechanical issues can emerge at any stage, and they must remain vigilant to warning signs.

This incident also highlights the importance of effective pilot decision making to ensuring safe flight. The pilot’s decision to divert when he observed erratic engine performance reduced the risk of injury or equipment damage. If the pilot had elected to continue with the flight, he would have had reduced options to manage those risks. Flight crew are encouraged to identify the hazards and risks they encounter during flight, and to make control decisions to minimise those risks where possible. The FAA provides decision making guidance to pilots in their Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM) training package.

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.


General details
Date: 07 October 2018   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1130 WST    
Location   (show map): Near Murray Field Airport    
State: Western Australia    
Release Date: 13 November 2018   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Mooney Aircraft Corp  
Aircraft model M20J  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Bunbury, WA  
Destination Jandakot, WA  
Last update 12 December 2018