Aviation safety investigations & reports

Potential fuel exhaustion event involving a DHC Beaver, VH-AWI, near Shute Harbour, Qld, on 2 August 2014

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 2 August 2014, the pilot of a de Havilland DHC-2 (Beaver) aircraft, registered VH-AWI, calculated the fuel required for two return charter flights from Shute Harbour to Whitehaven Beach, Queensland as specified on the company schedule for that day.

The pilot planned to fly one group of passengers to Whitehaven Beach, return solo to Shute Harbour, and take a second group of passengers to Whitehaven Beach. The pilot would then wait at Whitehaven beach before returning to Shute Harbour with the first group of passengers. The pilot would then return solo to Whitehaven Beach, collect the second group of passengers and return to Shute Harbour. During the planning, the pilot had omitted to include the solo ferry flights in the fuel calculations.

During the final flight to Whitehaven Beach, the pilot realised that he had planned for two return flights and omitted to allow additional fuel for the two empty sectors. He expected to land back at Shute Harbour with about 7 minutes of fuel remaining and elected to collect the passengers from Whitehaven Beach and return to Shute Harbour as planned.

The pilot landed the aircraft close to the passenger pick-up point to reduce taxi time, collected the passengers for the flight and conducted a short taxi and take-off for the estimated 12 minute flight. The aircraft landed at Shute Harbour and the pilot and passengers disembarked. About 6 L of fuel was in the tank when the aircraft landed, significantly less than the required 50 L reserve. 

This incident highlights the importance of establishing a known fuel status regularly and the impact distractions can have at critical times including during flight planning.

Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin - Issue 35

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General details
Date: 02 August 2014   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 09:00 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Shute Harbour    
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Low fuel  
Release date: 15 October 2014   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer de Havilland Canada  
Aircraft model DHC-2 MK 1  
Aircraft registration VH-AWI  
Serial number 298  
Type of operation Charter  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Whitehaven Beach, Qld  
Destination Shute Harbour, Qld  
Last update 14 November 2018