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.