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Sequence of events

On 24 August 2003, at about 0935 Eastern Standard Time, a motor vehicle involved in catering duties on the international apron area at Sydney airport entered runway 34 left (34L) at taxiway Golf without the driver having first received a clearance from air traffic control to enter the runway. At that time, an Airbus A330-341(Airbus) aircraft had just become airborne from runway 34L. The aircraft passed directly over the vehicle while it was on the runway. The runway incursion by the vehicle resulted in an infringement of runway separation standards.

The driver of the vehicle was authorised to drive only on the perimeter roads, airside roads and apron areas. The driver was not aware that she had entered the runway and was not authorised, or trained, to drive on taxiways or runways. The driver eventually realised that she had entered an area of the airport with which she was not familiar. She attempted to return to the apron and was subsequently escorted from the movement area by an airport operations officer.

Sydney Airport Corporation Limited (SACL)

SACL was the airport licence holder and operator of Sydney airport at the time of the occurrence. In accordance with the legislation current at the time of the occurrence, SACL was ultimately responsible for the proficiency of drivers operating airside at Sydney Airport.

Under the Airports (Control of On-Airports Activities) Regulations 1997, part 4, division 4, s124, the airport operator was required to publish an Airside Vehicle Control Handbook (AVCH) for the airport over which it had control. The Sydney airport AVCH contained particulars for the management and control of surface vehicles operating on, or in the vicinity of, the airside area of Sydney airport. The stated 'intent of the requirements for airside operation of vehicles set out in the AVCH [was] to ensure the safe and orderly movement of staff, passengers, aircraft and vehicular traffic'.

SACL was responsible for issuing an authority to drive airside (ADA) to a driver who had an employment requirement to operate a vehicle airside. That responsibility could be delegated to an 'Approved Issuing Authority' (AIA).

'An Approved Issuing Authority is a company or organisation to which SACL delegated the responsibility to carry out the training, testing, and issuance of an ADA for the Airport' and was generally delegated to those organisations that employed airside drivers. SACL maintained overall responsibility for the training and testing standards of Approved Issuing Authorities at Sydney airport. The AVCH stated that AIAs 'must:

  • Provide the SACL Manager Safety with reasonable access to its records and premises to enable the SACL Manager Safety to carry out audits to ensure that the AIA is maintaining satisfactory standards in the carrying out of its functions as an AIA; and
  • Train and test its employees and employees of its Subsidiaries to drive Airside to the standard required by the SACL Manager Safety'.


Training for a category 2 ADA included information on the recognition of perimeter roadway markings, apron roadway markings, live taxiway crossing markings, runway and taxiway markings. It did not require the driver to be trained in the use of a radio. The catering vehicle was not equipped, nor was it required to be equipped, with a radio suitable for use on an airport to enable two-way communication with air traffic control.

The driver of the vehicle held a current category 2 ADA, having been trained about 2 years previously. A category 2 ADA authorised the driver of an authorised vehicle to operate the vehicle on perimeter roads, airside roads and apron areas of the airport in accordance with the AVCH.

The AVCH specified the prerequisites for applying for the category 2 ADA. They included a requirement for drivers to hold a current State or Territory driver's licence and complete at least 4 hours of driving airside either as an observer or preferably as the driver under the supervision of another driver with at least a category 2 ADA.

Drivers were also required to demonstrate 12 practical and theoretical competencies to an approved training officer.

Category 2 ADA training did not include recommended actions or guidelines for drivers should they become lost or disorientated while driving airside.

Driver reference materials

The airport operator, SACL, produced a pocketbook for use by drivers with a category 2 ADA, and another for use by drivers with either a category 3 or a category 4 ADA. Holders of a category 3 ADA were authorised to operate an authorised vehicle on all movement areas excluding runway strips. Holders of a Category 4 ADA were authorised to operate on all airside areas which included an authorisation to enter a runway strip in accordance with airport procedures. The pocketbooks were intended to be 'a quick reference guide to explain the main rules which apply to all drivers operating airside'. The driver involved in this runway incursion had been provided with a copy of the category 2 driver's pocketbook.

The Category 2 pocketbook did not include recommended actions or guidelines for drivers should they become lost or disorientated while driving airside.

Air traffic control (ATC)

Air Traffic Controllers provided an Air Traffic Service to aircraft on that part of the Sydney aerodrome used for take-off, landing and taxying, excluding the apron areas, for the purpose of preventing collisions between aircraft and obstructions. The aerodrome controller (ADC) was responsible for authorising aircraft, personnel and vehicles to cross a runway or to operate on a runway strip.

The Manual of Air Traffic Services required ADCs to visually scan the length of the runway prior to issuing a take-off clearance and immediately before the take-off is commenced to confirm that the runway was free from obstacles including vehicles and other aircraft. Vehicle operators and pilots were also required to obtain a clearance from ATC prior to entering an active runway, and air traffic controllers operating from the control tower maintained a routine visual surveillance of the manoeuvring area of the airport.

A review of the recorded radar data showed that, when the controller issued a clearance to the crew of the Airbus to enter the runway, the vehicle was in the vicinity of bay 59 on the international apron. That was approximately 2.78 km from the Airbus and approximately 0.83 km from the intersection of taxiway Golf and runway 34L. When the Airbus commenced its take-off roll, the vehicle was near the intersection of taxiway Golf and taxiway Yankee. That was approximately 2.77 km from the Airbus and 0.5 km from the intersection of taxiway Golf and runway 34L.


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