Aviation occurrence briefs

Fuel starvation involving Cessna 206, 3.5 NM NE of Aldinga, SA, on 3 February 2019

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 3 February 2019, a Cessna 206 departed Aldinga, South Australia, to conduct parachuting operations. There was one pilot and four parachutists on board. At 1345 Central Daylight-saving Time, the aircraft was passing through 8,000 ft on climb when the engine failed. The pilot attempted to restart the engine and switched fuel tanks, but the attempt was unsuccessful.

At approximately 6,500 ft, the parachutists exited the aircraft and the pilot started to track back towards Aldinga. The pilot was able to restart the engine at 5,000 ft and conducted a straight in approach to Aldinga. After landing, the fuel tanks were dipped and it was found that the right tank was empty while the left tank had 110 litres of fuel on board. The pilot said that he likely forgot to change fuel tanks because he was distracted due to radio calls and high workload.

Safety message

Pilots are reminded to follow published procedures when operating any aircraft system in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Accidents involving fuel mismanagement are an ongoing aviation safety concern. Pilots need to:

  • understand how their aircraft fuel system works
  • know how much fuel is in each tank
  • ensure that the appropriate tank is selected at all times.

In this instance, selecting the appropriate fuel tank during checks would have avoided the pilot having to manage fuel during a high workload period. This in turn, would reduce the risk of a fuel starvation event.

Issue number 5 in the ATSB’s Avoidable Accident Series, Avoidable Accidents No. 5 - Starved and exhausted: Fuel management aviation accidents (AR-2011-112), provides more detail on these scenarios and is available from the ATSB website.

General details
Date: 03 February 2019   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1345 CDT    
Location   (show map): 6 km NE of Aldinga    
State: South Australia    
Release Date: 11 June 2019   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final    

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model U206G  
Type of operation Sports Aviation  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Aldinga, South Australia  
Last update 11 June 2019