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The ATSB's final investigation report has found that an Airbus A330 passenger aircraft that landed at Sydney in fog on 6 April last year did so because the adverse weather conditions were unforecast and the flight crew continued to manoeuvre the aircraft for a landing at Sydney past the time they had previously nominated as the latest time for a diversion to Canberra.

Since the occurrence safety action has been taken by the air traffic services provider and the Bureau of Meteorology to improve the reporting of weather information to flight crews and to improve the accuracy of fog forecasting at Sydney airport.

On 6 April 2004, at about 0625 EST, an Airbus A330-301 aircraft, registered VH-QPC, landed on runway 34L at Sydney airport in weather conditions that were below the landing minima. The aircraft was being operated on a scheduled passenger flight from Perth to Sydney and it had departed Perth with sufficient fuel for the flight based on the current Sydney aerodrome forecast. This forecast indicated that, when the aircraft was due to arrive at Sydney, the weather conditions would be adequate for a landing. However, when the aircraft was about 110 km southwest of Sydney the weather conditions deteriorated due to unforecast fog.

The crew used weather information provided by controllers when making decisions in response to the deteriorating visibility at Sydney airport. However, not all of the weather information was passed to the crew. This resulted in a reduction in the level of appreciation by the crew about the dynamic weather situation and, in particular, the rapid progression of fog across the runway complex.

The crew initially required an instrument landing system approach to runway 16 Right based on runway visual range information from Sydney Airport runway observers which did not reflect the actual visibility conditions. After being advised of a report from the crew of another aircraft about the visibility being better at the threshold of runway 34 Left, the crew of VH-QPC then decided to conduct an approach to that runway.

The crew had previously advised the air traffic controller that they would need to divert to Canberra at 0618. On the basis of the information available to them, the crew decided to continue manoeuvring the aircraft for an approach to runway 34L past that nominated time. However, while the crew were making the approach the fog moved across the threshold of runway 34L. The crew then conducted an autoland onto that runway in conditions that were worse than the landing minima specified by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

The report ( Aviation Safety Investigation Report 200401270) can be obtained from the website.

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Last update 01 April 2011