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On 30 July 2011, a Virgin Australia Airlines, Embraer-Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica ERJ 190-100 IGW aircraft, registered VH-ZPA, was being operated on a scheduled passenger service from Sydney, New South Wales to Melbourne, Victoria.

The crew were assigned the LIZZI FIVE VICTOR standard arrival route for a visual approach to runway 34 at Melbourne by air traffic control, with a requirement to cross waypoint SHEED (overhead Essendon Airport) at or above 2,500 ft.

When about 3 NM before SHEED, the First Officer (FO) disconnected the autopilot as he believed he had visually identified SHEED (Essendon Airport) and passed overhead. Immediately after, the aircraft descended through 2,500 ft. The descent was continued with the aircraft actually crossing overhead SHEED at about 1,800 ft. Neither crew identified the error until receiving altitude alerts.

The operator conducted an investigation into the incident and identified that the crew's situation awareness had reduced, resulting in the aircraft being flown 700 ft below the required altitude restriction at SHEED.

This incident emphasises the impact reduced situation awareness can have, and the importance of monitoring not only the aircraft's state, but also the actions of other crew members.

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[ Download PDF: 3.63MB]
General details
Date: 30 July 2011 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 1537 EST  
Location   (show map):overhead Essendon Airport Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Victoria Occurrence type: Operational non-compliance 
Release date: 24 May 2012 Occurrence class: Airspace 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Aircraft details
Aircraft manufacturer: Embraer-Empresa Brasileira De Aeronautica 
Aircraft model: ERJ 190 
Aircraft registration: VH-ZPA 
Serial number: 19000148 
Operator: Virgin Australia 
Type of operation: Air Transport High Capacity 
Damage to aircraft: Nil 
Departure point:Sydney, NSW
Destination:Melbourne, Vic.
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Last update 01 March 2016