On the 6 November 2012 at about 1250 Eastern Standard Time, a Bombardier DHC-8-315, registered VH-SBG (SBG) was conducting a visual approach to Brisbane airport while at the same time a Eurocopter EC120B, registered VH-EHA (EHA) was departing Doomben racecourse, which was located near to the approach path of SBG. To facilitate the departure from Doomben, the pilot of EHA was cleared by the air traffic controller for take-off with a requirement to maintain visual separation with the approaching SBG. Despite this, SBG received a Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) alert.

As EHA became airborne and SBG continued to descend as part of its approach, the vertical and lateral distances between the two aircraft reduced. The result was that the flight crew of SBG received a TCAS Resolution Advisory (RA), which meant that they must take immediate action to resolve the potential conflict. A mandatory climb in response to the TCAS RA was actioned by the flight crew which then improperly positioned the aircraft for a continued approach to land. The flight crew elected to conduct a missed approach.

The TCAS RA and missed approach significantly increased the flight crew’s workload, increased the controller’s workload and was a precursor for later aircraft sequencing issues. To facilitate another circuit for SBG, and to assist with the sequencing of other aircraft arrivals, the controller decided to temporarily suspend departures from runway 01. The flight crew of SBG were re‑sequenced for another approach and landed on runway 01 without further incident. 

As a result of this occurrence, Airservices Australia has advised the ATSB that they are taking the following safety actions:

The Manual of Air Traffic Standards (MATS) was updated on 15 November 2012. The update requires air traffic controllers to provide additional consideration of performance characteristic prior to assigning visual separation to the pilot.

Specifically, MATS 10-50-221 (d) requires the controller to consider the possibility of a TCAS Resolution Advisory due to closer proximity of operation prior to assigning visual separation.


Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin – Issue 16