ATSB commends Jandakot air traffic controller

The ATSB has commended the air traffic controller who was successfully able to guide a student pilot to a safe landing after the student’s instructor became incapacitated due to a medical episode.

ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood presented the controller from Perth’s Jandakot Airport Tower with a Certificate of Commendation during a presentation at the Safeskies conference in Canberra on Thursday to acknowledge the controller’s calm professionalism in guiding the student to a safe landing.

“The controller worked with Airservices Australia’s highly capable team in Jandakot Tower to effectively manage the emergency situation," Chief Commissioner said.

“He calmly and competently provided instructions and advice to ensure the student pilot was able to make a safe landing at Jandakot. The controller, along with his colleagues in the tower, are commended for their professionalism and commitment to aviation safety.”

The student and instructor had departed Jandakot at about 5pm local time on 31 August 2019 for a training flight in the local training area, the ATSB’s Occurrence Brief report on the incident details. The student had a total of 2.4 hours flying experience but did not have experience flying the Cessna 152. It was the student pilot’s third flying lesson as his wife and three children watched from the ground.

While returning to the airport, the instructor experienced a medical episode due to an unknown and previously undiagnosed condition, and subsequently lost consciousness. The student took over control of the aircraft and contacted Jandakot Tower.

Under the guidance of the controller, the student was instructed to conduct a number of flyovers of the runway to gain situational awareness. The controller arranged for an instructor to assist the student from the tower, while ensuring all other aircraft remained clear of the airport while the student was able to practice approaches.

Once the student felt confident, the controller remained in contact to assist the student with landing the aircraft. Upon landing, emergency services vehicles attended the aircraft to assess the instructor.

“At all times, communication between ATC and the student was concise, informative and positive,” Chief Commissioner Hood said.

“During the time the flying instructor was incapacitated, both ATC and the student pilot communicated clearly, calmly and proactively, resulting in a safe landing.”

Commissioner Hood said the incident clearly highlights just how important effective communication is to aviation safety.

View an ABC News clip on YouTube featuring the radio transmissions between the Jandakot air traffic controller and student the student pilot here.

Last update 14 November 2019