Aviation occurrence briefs

Engine power loss involving a Piper PA-38-112, at Amberley Airport, Qld, on 15 June 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 15 June 2018, at about 1420 Eastern Standard Time, a Piper Aircraft PA-38-112 was departing Amberley Airport, Queensland (Qld) for Archerfield Airport, Qld with one pilot and one passenger on board.

Shortly after the aircraft became airborne, the pilot observed a drop in engine power. Over the next few seconds, the pilot observed the engine power fluctuate between normal power and a reduced power output. Because of the fluctuating engine power, the pilot elected to land the aircraft on the remaining runway..

After landing, fluid was found to be dripping from the aircraft. Emergency services were called to clean the contaminant from the runway.

Following the incident, the operator removed the aircraft from service, placing it in quarantine until engineering inspections were completed.

Operator’s investigation

A post-incident inspection of the fuel system revealed a faulty fuel gascolator (filter) and a cracked fuel primer line. The maintenance provider replaced the fuel gascolator assembly and primer line to rectify the defect and returned the aircraft to service.

The operator identified the cause of the incident to be a fuel leak in the fuel gascolator assembly. The leak resulted in reduced fuel flow to the engine carburettor, which subsequently caused the power fluctuations on take-off. The operator’s investigation report noted that the fuel leak only became evident after the aircraft was exposed to the vibrations associated with high power settings and becoming airborne.

Safety action

The aircraft operator in conjunction with the maintenance provider has identified a more robust fuel gascolator that can be fitted under the authority of a Supplemental Type Certificate.

The operator is progressively replacing these units on their fleet of aircraft to reduce the probability of a similar incident in future.

Safety message

This incident highlights the importance of being able to act quickly and decisively in-flight to ensure an effective response in time critical situations. In this instance, proper monitoring of flight instruments and decisive action by the pilot ensured a safe outcome was achieved.

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: 15 June 2018   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1420 AEST    
Location   (show map): Amberley Airport    
State: Queensland    
Release Date: 02 October 2018   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Piper Aircraft Corp  
Aircraft model PA-38-112  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Last update 12 December 2018