Aviation safety investigations & reports

Breakdown of separation, VH-TQZ, Tamworth Aerodrome, NSW, 7 February 2008

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 7 February 2008 at Tamworth Aerodrome, New South Wales, an air traffic controller issued a take-off clearance to the flight crew of a Bombardier Inc DHC-8-315 (DHC8) aircraft, registered VH-TQZ, for runway 30 Right. At the same time, an airport operations officer was operating a vehicle on that runway.

The controller had previously issued a clearance to the operations officer to conduct bird dispersal activities on the runway. The operations officer was monitoring his radio and heard the DHC8's take-off clearance. He advised the controller that he would vacate the runway. At the same time, the flight crew had observed the vehicle on the runway and did not commence the takeoff. The controller cancelled the take-off clearance until the runway was clear.

While these secondary safety defences effectively prevented any possibility of an accident, the issue of the take-off clearance with the vehicle on the runway constituted a breakdown of separation.

The investigation found that the controller's scan of the runway and flight strip board was not effective as a result of his pre-occupation with the management of current and pending traffic and the associated high volume of radio communications. It was also possible that the controller was experiencing some degree of fatigue at the time. The ATSB's investigation did not detect any safety issues that required consequent safety action.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 281KB]
General details
Date: 07 February 2008   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1034 ESuT   Investigation level: Systemic - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Tamworth    
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Loss of separation  
Release date: 20 August 2010   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft details

Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer Bombardier Inc  
Aircraft model DHC-8  
Aircraft registration VH-TQZ  
Serial number 555  
Type of operation Air Transport High Capacity  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Tamworth, NSW  
Destination Sydney, NSW  
Last update 03 April 2020