Aviation occurrence briefs

Partial engine power loss involving a Cessna 182P, near Gympie, Qld, on 22 April 2020

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 22 April 2020, a Cessna 182P departed Caloundra, Queensland (Qld), for a private flight to Bowen, Qld. The pilot was the only occupant on board.

During take-off, there was a strong burning smell present in the cabin. After completing the take-off checklist, the pilot checked the cabin heat, mixture levers and fuel selectors but was unable to identify the source of the fumes.

Passing 3,000 ft on climb, the smell dissipated. The pilot continued the climb and the aircraft levelled off at 8,500 ft. At this time, the pilot reduced power to cruising power and leaned out the mixture. Approximately 37 km south of Gympie, Qld, the engine began spluttering.

The pilot conducted further checks and increased the fuel mixture to full rich, but was unable to rectify the issue. Approximately 19 km south of Gympie, the engine spluttering became progressively worse and a drop in airspeed was observed. The pilot contacted air traffic control (ATC) to advise of the engine problem, declared a PAN PAN,[1] and reported that the aircraft would be diverting to Gympie.

Following a safe landing at Gympie, the pilot conducted a visual inspection of the engine and performed a fuel drain and oil check. There was no visible damage to the engine and the fuel and oil levels and quantity were normal.

Pilot comments

The pilot reported that the aircraft had not been operated for an extended period prior to this flight and it is suspected that this is what contributed to both the fumes and the rough running engine.

Safety message

Faced with an abnormal situation, pilots are reminded that making an early decision to reject the take-off if it is safe to do so, or to conduct a precautionary landing as soon as practical will reduce the likelihood of further incident.

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.


  1. PAN PAN: an internationally recognised radio call announcing an urgency condition which concerns the safety of an aircraft or its occupants but where the flight crew does not require immediate assistance.
General details
Date: 22 April 2020   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1523 EST    
Location   (show map): 37 km S of Gympie    
State: Queensland    
Release Date: 30 June 2020   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model 182P  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Destination Bowen, Queensland  
Last update 30 June 2020