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The controller assumed that adequate separation would be achieved based on his experience. However, that left little margin to recover the situation after he saw the Chieftain on radar, tracking to Williamtown. The provision of traffic information would have probably enabled the Chieftain pilot to take action earlier to avoid the Dash 8.

The Chieftain pilot did not flight plan via the recommended track for aircraft operating from Taree to Sydney. Had he planned via NICLA it is unlikely that he would have entered the restricted area without a clearance. It would have also minimised the possibility of conflict with aircraft on the Williamtown - Taree track, which was one of the intentions of the preferred track advice in the en route supplement. The non-use of the preferred track to Sydney and the pilot's unfamiliarity with waypoint NICLA were indicators of inadequate flight preparation.

The Chieftain pilot had little option but to depart Taree when he was unable to communicate with the controller. However, that meant the pilot would be busy with CTAF broadcasts and establishing contact with the controller during the initial stages of the flight. It is likely that the increased workload, and the need for him to find NICLA, caused the pilot to probably approach task saturation. That was indicated by the pilot not appreciating the illogical aspects of being advised, in the same radio transmission, to expect a clearance by the Williamtown - NICLA track and to avoid the restricted area. Had the pilot been less busy with the flight, or more familiar with the area, he probably would have requested the controller to confirm the track to be adopted.

The controller was also probably approaching task overload as he coordinated a clearance for the Chieftain with Williamtown air traffic control. That was likely the reason for the controller advising the pilot of the incorrect track. In addition, he missed the pilot's advice of tracking direct to Williamtown. Had the controller been less busy he would have probably appreciated the content of both his and the Chieftain pilot's transmissions and taken action to clarify the situation. That could have included either navigation assistance or the provision of traffic information to the pilot.

The proximity of the Taree CTAF to the Williamtown restricted area results in increased complexity for both controllers and pilots, especially when aircraft are operating between controlled and non-controlled airspace. In this occurrence the use of TCAS by the Dash 8 pilot, and adherence to CTAF procedures by both pilots assisted them to resolve the situation. The occurrence also highlighted the importance of effective planning for both controllers and pilots prior to commencing duty or undertaking flights respectively.

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