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On 22 December 2009, at 0253 Central Standard Time, an air traffic controller took action to resolve a loss of separation assurance that occurred on airway route J30, 222 km north-west of Tennant Creek, Northern Territory between an Airbus A330-300 (A330) aircraft, registered B-HLV, and a Boeing Co. B737-800 aircraft, registered VH-VUJ.

The aircraft were approaching each other at flight level 370 while tracking in opposite directions on the same airway route. The air traffic controller managing the airspace did not effectively control the resolution of the developing confliction.

The flight crews of both aircraft identified the traffic confliction and initiated avoidance action to maintain separation.

The investigation found that the controller did not implement a separation plan when the confliction was first identified and that action by the flight crew of the A330 prompted the controller to take action to re-establish separation assurance. In addition, a number of safety issues were identified, including that the controller had not received training in compromised separation recovery techniques and that there was no dedicated control room aisle supervisor during the then peak traffic period. Finally, ambiguity was identified between the Manual of Air Traffic Services (MATS) and the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP) in relation to the assignment of non‑standard cruising levels and the definition of an 'operational requirement'.

In response to this occurrence, Airservices Australia (Airservices) conducted an internal investigation, which recommended a number of actions to address the safety factors and issues that were identified by the Airservices investigation. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is satisfied that the action taken by Airservices to clarify the relevant content in the MATS and AIP, and recommended by the Airservices investigation will, when implemented, adequately address the safety issues identified in this ATSB safety investigation.

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Safety issues

AO-2009-080-SI-01 - AO-2009-080-SI-02 -  

Compromised separation training

The controller had not received training in compromised separation recovery techniques.

Safety issue details
Issue number:AO-2009-080-SI-01
Who it affects:All Airservices Australia air traffic controllers
Status:Adequately addressed


 

Ambiguity in documentation

Ambiguity existed between the Manual of Air Traffic Services and the Aeronautical Information Publication in relation to the assignment of non-standard cruising levels and the definition of an ‘operational requirement’.

Safety issue details
Issue number:AO-2009-080-SI-02
Who it affects:All Airservices Australia en route air traffic controllers and All flight crews operating in controlled airspace
Status:Adequately addressed

 
General details
Date: 22 Dec 2009 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 0252 CST Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
Location   (show map):222 km NW of Tennant Creek Occurrence type:Loss of separation assurance 
State: Northern Territory Occurrence class: Airspace 
Release date: 24 Jun 2011 Occurrence category: Serious Incident 
Report status: Final Highest injury level: None 
 
Aircraft 1 details
Aircraft manufacturer: The Boeing Company 
Aircraft model: 737 
Aircraft registration: VH-VUJ 
Serial number: 34443 
Type of operation: Air Transport High Capacity 
Damage to aircraft: Nil 
Departure point:Melbourne, Vic.
Destination:Darwin, NT
Aircraft 2 details
Aircraft manufacturer: Airbus Industrie 
Aircraft model: A330 
Aircraft registration: B-HLV 
Serial number: 548 
Type of operation: Air Transport High Capacity 
Damage to aircraft: Nil 
Departure point:Hong Kong China
Destination:Melbourne, Vic.
 
 
 
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Last update 13 May 2014