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The aircraft was crewed by a captain from another company base who was inexperienced on the route and a first officer who was very experienced on the route. The first officer told the captain he would take complete responsibility for clearances, tracking etc and give any support required by the captain. The aircraft was told to call Melbourne Control approaching 10,000 feet (the lower limit of controlled airspace) on the climb for further clearance. Preceding traffic on this track meant that the aircraft would be subject to a step climb. The aircraft called Melbourne passing 10,800 feet on climb to flight level (F160). The aircraft was already in controlled airspace without a clearance and was instructed to maintain F130 due to the preceding traffic having just left F140.

The first officer reported that he called prior to 10,000 feet but got no response. He then found that he had selected an incorrect frequency on the VHF radio. He selected the correct frequency and made contact but during this time the aircraft had entered the lower limit of controlled airspace. The first officer realised that he should have told the captain to level at 10,000 feet until they got a clearance but he had anticipated they would have the clearance prior to reaching 10,000 feet and accordingly he had not briefed the captain to maintain 10,000 feet until they got a clearance. The preceding traffic was a Dash 8 which was climbing faster than their aircraft. There was no breakdown of separation.

Significant Factors

The following factors contributed to the development of the incident:

1. The captain was inexperienced on the route.

2. The first officer was experienced on the route and briefed the captain that he would take responsibility for clearances, tracking etc.

3. The first officer did not advise the captain as the aircraft approached controlled airspace.

4. The first officer inadvertently selected an incorrect radio frequency. By the time he had corrected this error the aircraft had penetrated controlled airspace.

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