At 1305 Eastern Daylight-saving Time on 1 February 2011, a breakdown of separation occurred 22 km south of Williamtown (Newcastle Airport), New South Wales between a Boeing B737-7Q8 (737), registered VH-VBK, and an Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd Westwind 1124 (WW24) aircraft, registered VH-AJG. Both aircraft were in communication with and under the jurisdiction of Department of Defence (DoD) air traffic controllers based at Williamtown.
Separation between the aircraft reduced to 0.7 NM (1.3 km) on radar and 400 ft vertically when the required separation standard was 3 NM (5.6 km) or 1,000 ft. The vertical separation achieved was as a result of the 737 flight crew responding in accordance with a resolution advisory provided by their aircraft's traffic alert and collision avoidance system.
The investigation identified a series of errors by the Williamtown Approach controllers involving separation assurance, coordination and communication, and compromised separation recovery.
The investigation also identified three safety issues. The DoD advised that they reviewed and amended Williamtown procedures, introduced compromised separation recovery techniques training and trialled use of the conflict alerting function in the Australian Defence Air Traffic System at Williamtown.