Aviation safety investigations & reports

Breakdown of separation, 7 km SW of Sydney Airport, NSW, 21 September 2007, VH-EKX, SAAB Aircraft AB, SF-340B, VH-CKO, Eurocopter EC120

Investigation number:
AO-2007-048
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Summary

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On 21 September 2007, a SAAB Aircraft AB, SF-340B (SAAB) registered VH-EKX was inbound to Sydney, NSW on a scheduled passenger service from Wagga Wagga, NSW. The crew was cleared by air traffic control to track direct to short final runway 16R at Sydney Airport. The last assigned altitude issued to the SAAB crew was 2,500 ft. A Eurocopter EC120 helicopter registered VH-CKO had departed Sydney Airport on a Georges River 1 departure and, when identified on radar by air traffic control, was cleared to track direct to Kingsgrove at 1,500 ft for aerial work. Air traffic control had coordinated the positions and intended tracks of both aircraft and established a 1,000 ft vertical separation standard.

At 1058.08 Eastern Standard Time, the short term conflict alert activated on the display consoles of the air traffic controllers. Two seconds later, the copilot of the SAAB reported that they were responding to a resolution advisory from the aircraft's traffic advisory and collision avoidance system (TCAS). Radar analysis indicated that the separation between the two aircraft reduced to 200 ft vertically and 0.5 NM horizontally. There was an infringement of the vertical separation standard of 1,000 ft.

The helicopter pilot had climbed to 2,000 ft and later reported that he had been distracted from monitoring his assigned altitude by a focus on meeting the client's photographic requirements. The pilot in command and the copilot of the SAAB both reported that they believed that they had been cleared by air traffic control to make a visual approach and had descended their aircraft to 2,000 ft.

The investigation established that there was a safety issue in that there is no requirement for a controller to confirm that descent below a previously assigned altitude has not been given in a clearance to a circuit position that does not include a visual approach clearance. Airservices Australia is examining options to address this safety issue.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 1.2MB]
 
 
 
General details
Date: 21 September 2007   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 10:55 EST   Investigation level: Complex - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Sydney Aerodrome    
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Loss of separation  
Release date: 20 June 2008   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft 1 details

Aircraft 1 details
Aircraft manufacturer S.A.A.B. Aircraft Co  
Aircraft model 340  
Aircraft registration VH-EKX  
Serial number 340B-257  
Type of operation Air Transport Low Capacity  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Wagga Wagga Aerodrome, NSW  
Departure time Unknown  
Destination Sydney Airport, NSW  
Crew details
Role Class of licence Hours on type Hours total
Pilot-in-Command

Aircraft 2 details

Aircraft 2 details
Aircraft manufacturer Eurocopter  
Aircraft model EC120  
Aircraft registration VH-CKO  
Serial number 1056  
Type of operation Aerial Work  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Sydney Airport, NSW  
Departure time Unknown  
Destination Sydney Airport, NSW  
Crew details
Role Class of licence Hours on type Hours total
Pilot-in-Command
Last update 14 November 2018