Aviation safety investigations & reports

Breakdown of separation - Cessna 404, VH-UOP and Airbus A320, VH-VQN, Darwin Airport, 31 January 2011

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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On 31 January 2011, an Airbus A320-232 aircraft, registered VH-VQN (VQN), was taxiing for runway 29 at Darwin Airport, Northern Territory on a scheduled passenger service to Sydney, New South Wales.

The crew required a clearance to cross runway 11/29 in order to access the main taxiway for runway 29. On reaching the runway holding point, the crew received a clearance from air traffic control to cross the runway.  Prior to crossing, the crew checked the runway and approach paths for traffic. The pilot in command (PIC) stated that they were clear to the left, but the copilot noted that there was an aircraft lined up and stopped on runway 11. Soon after, the copilot observed the aircraft commence its take-off roll. He advised the PIC, who immediately stopped the aircraft. VQN had taxied past the holding point, but was short of the runway, resulting in a runway incursion.

Shortly after, they observed a Cessna 404 aircraft, registered VH-UOP (UOP), on a scheduled passenger service from Darwin to Snake Bay, Northern Territory take off on runway 11. A breakdown of runway separation occurred.

Air traffic control had provided the instruction for VQN to cross the runway based on the expectation that UOP would have commenced the takeoff soon after receiving a take-off clearance.

Runway incursions are recognised as an ongoing safety concern for the aviation industry and have been cited in numerous accidents world-wide. This incident emphasises the need for controllers to remain vigilant in monitoring and scanning the runway and highlights the significance of pilots conducting a thorough visual inspection of the runway and approach paths prior to entering or crossing any runway, even if a clearance from air traffic control has been provided.

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 5.43MB]
General details
Date: 31 January 2011   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0757 CST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Darwin Airport    
State: Northern Territory   Occurrence type: Loss of separation  
Release date: 12 December 2011   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft 1 details

Aircraft 1 details
Aircraft manufacturer Cessna Aircraft Company  
Aircraft model 404  
Aircraft registration VH-UOP  
Serial number 4040636  
Type of operation Air Transport Low Capacity  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Darwin, NT  

Aircraft 2 details

Aircraft 2 details
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus Industrie  
Aircraft model A320  
Aircraft registration VH-VQN  
Serial number 2600  
Type of operation Air Transport High Capacity  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Darwin, NT  
Destination Sydney, NSW  
Last update 14 November 2018