Aviation safety investigations & reports

Fuel starvation involving a Cessna Aircraft Company 150M, VH-RZW, 125km ENE Geraldton, Aerodrome, WA on 17 November 1997

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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The aircraft was being used to muster cattle at Tallering Station. The pilot reported that the aircraft's fuel tanks had been filled the night before the accident. On the morning of the accident, the pilot again checked that the fuel tanks were full. Having been airborne for approximately 4.75 hours, the pilot flew the aircraft towards the station homestead to refuel. The pilot estimated that there was sufficient fuel to remain airborne for at least a further 45 minutes. However, almost immediately, the aircraft's engine began surging and misfiring. The pilot reported that he completed the appropriate checks and when he pumped the throttle, the engine gave some response for approximately 5 to 10 seconds before it finally stopped. The pilot reported that he attempted to find a suitable forced landing area but the aircraft impacted trees at approximately 40 kts late on final approach. The pilot was uninjured. Later, approximately 22 L of fuel was drained from the aircraft's left fuel tank but none was found in the right tank. The aircraft's left and right fuel tanks were vented through a vent line connected to the left fuel tank. The vent line is fitted with a vent valve. However, the right fuel tank also had a vented cap. The subsequent engineering inspection found that the vent line valve had deteriorated and was sticking closed. It is likely that the vent valve had stuck closed at some point during the flight. The right tank probably fed quicker than the left tank due to it venting correctly through the vented cap. When the right tank contents had been exhausted, the low air pressure in the left tank probably created an insufficient head of fuel to feed the engine. A defect report has been submitted to CASA by the operator's engineering organisation, recommending that both fuel tanks be fitted with vented fuel caps.
Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 15KB]
General details
Date: 17 November 1997   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 10:30 WST    
State: Western Australia   Occurrence type: Fuel starvation  
Release date: 13 February 1998   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final    

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model 150M  
Aircraft registration VH-RZW  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Substantial  
Departure point Tallering Station WA  
Destination Tallering Station WA