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Safety Action

Summary

As a result of the investigation into this occurrence, the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation made the following recommendation to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority in conjunction with the Gliding Federation of Australia on 13 August 1997:

R970092
The Bureau of Air Safety Investigation recommends that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority in conjunction with the Gliding Federation of Australia;

  1. establish a protected circuit area around airfields that have considerable gliding activity;
  2. establish a procedure that all inbound aircraft be required to make an all-stations radio call advising their intention to enter the protected circuit area mentioned above;
  3. apply a speed restriction of 80 kts indicated airspeed to gliders operating in this protected circuit area at all times other than during official competition events (aircraft other than gliders should operate at minimum safe speed within the area); and
  4. investigate the benefit of the application of high-visibility markings for all Australian registered gliders.

Gliding Federation of Australia response

An initial response was received from the Gliding Federation of Australia (GFA) on 12 September 1997, rejecting all but the last recommendation. A further response was received from the GFA on 9 October 1997. The response stated in part:

Summary

  1. The GFA recognizes that the rate of mid-air collisions involving gliders is unacceptably high in the circuit areas of aerodromes and will implement measures to improve discipline in flying the pattern and making better use of the radio.
  2. The GFA is unwilling to accept the imposition of mandatory radio for gliders in an area where it is optional for all other traffic.
  3. Although it is, on the face of it, difficult to argue with the recommendation for a speed limit for gliders, there are considerable numbers of fast homebuilt aircraft such as the Long Eze which have a frontal area not much different from that of a glider and are thus just as difficult to see. In fact, because of their shorter wingspan, they have even less frontal area in some cases. Given that the Tocumwal accident occurred above the circuit area and there are no other accidents on record where high glider speed in the circuit was shown to be a factor, there is no justification for the recommendation.

    In spite of the above comment, GFA will closely examine the feasibility of requiring in future that any "abnormal" circuit entry, be it a high-speed entry or an inadvertent entry from an unusual position, be preceded by an "all stations" call from a radio-equipped glider, warning other traffic of the glider's position and intentions. In the case of a non-radio glider, a high speed circuit entry will not be permitted (except at a NOTAMed contest) and pilots "caught out" by conditions and entering from unusual positions must fly so as to avoid other traffic in accordance with the CARs.
  4. A shift in emphasis is needed in cross-country training, from the euphoria of completing the task to a positive concentration on the complex circuit-joining task ahead and its consequent need for a full lookout scan and any radio calls that may be appropriate. For all joining traffic, whether from cross-countries or not, the concept of a "wake-up call" when about to enter the circuit area must be developed and we are working on that.
  5. A strategy needs to be devised to cope with the increasing complexity of cockpit instrument systems, especially when entering known busy traffic areas.
  6. BASI has identified the phenomenon of "skill fatigue", one of the symptoms of which is fixed vision and a failure to scan the sky. Given that the complex nature of many gliding tasks makes skill fatigue a likely factor in our sport, there will be an education campaign warning of the need to "keep something in reserve" for the complex task of joining a known busy part of the sky after the relatively low-risk enroute task which has just been flown.

    I trust this explains and summarises the GFA position on this matter".

Response classification: CLOSED - PARTIALLY ACCEPTED

GFA/BASI Meeting

Subsequently a meeting between BASI and the Director of Operations of the GFA was held on 13 January 1998. The following is a summary of the outcomes of that meeting:

  1. The proposal for a protected area around aerodromes with significant gliding activity was not supported. Instead it was agreed that the size of the CTAFs at these locations be reduced from a non-standard 15 NM radius to the standard 5 NM radius.
  2. It was agreed that the GFA recommend a circuit entry broadcast become a standard operational procedure for all radio-equipped gliders that, due to variation in conditions or unforeseen circumstances, can not enter or comply with the standard traffic pattern for that location. The GFA publication "Airways and Radio Procedures for Glider Pilots" to be amended accordingly. It was also agreed that a procedure would be developed for non radio-equipped gliders to follow in similar circumstances.
  3. The recommendation for an 80 kt speed restriction to gliders operating in the circuit area was rejected. An alternative course of action to address this issue, as suggested by CASA, was the avoidance of abrupt vertical manoeuvres in the circuit area. It was proposed that BASI discuss with CASA the incorporation of the avoidance of abrupt vertical manoeuvres in the circuit area, into the relevant section of the Aeronautical Information Publication.
  4. The GFA expressed a willingness to participate in any additional study to investigate the benefit of high-visibility markings on gliders. BASI will encourages the GFA and others to continue research on this subject.

Civil Aviation Safety Authority response

A response was received from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) on 19 September 1997. This response disagreed with some of the recommendations and instead suggested some alternatives.

Following the GFA/BASI meeting, a copy of the letter to the GFA, summarising the agreements reached at that meeting, was sent to CASA.

The following response was received from CASA on 6 April 1998:

"Thank you for your letter of 3 February 1998 with the results of a meeting between BASI and the GFA at which the BASI report on the Tocumwal and Horsham glider mid air collisions were discussed.

CASA concurs with the recommendations resulting from this meeting and will instigate action to implement the reduction in the size of the Tocumwal and Benalla CTAFs".

Response classification: CLOSED - ACCEPTED

LOCAL SAFETY ACTION

As a result of this occurrence, Sportavia Soaring Centre of Tocumwal, wrote to BASI on 27 August 1997, advising:

"Having read your Air Safety Recommendation on No R970092, we are in full agreeance with the report and also fully agree with the recommendations put forward.

It is our intention to implement immediately the recommendations outlined in the report: They are:

  1. A mandatory 15nm inbound radio transmission by all gliders.
  2. A 3nm inbound transmission by all gliders entering the circuit area.
  3. A radio call on executing the circuit entry.
  4. 80 knots indicated airspeed maximum for all gliders inside the circuit area, except during official competitions.
  5. The circuit is defined as below 2000 AGL and 3nm radius.

We believe these actions will reduce the possibility of a repeat accident of this nature. Trusting that this is to your satisfaction".

 
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