On 14 January 2013, a Skippers Fairchild SA227 aircraft, registered VH-WBA (WBA), was being operated on a scheduled passenger flight to Leinster aerodrome, Western Australia, with two crew and six passengers on board.

At the same time, the aerodrome reporting officer (ARO) was conducting works on runway 28 at Leinster. Before entering the runway, he made a broadcast on the Leinster common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) using a hand held radio.

The crew of WBA reported making all the necessary calls on the Leinster CTAF, with no responses received and being informed by their passenger services agent at the aerodrome that the runway was clear.

During the landing, the first officer observed an object that was possibly a vehicle on the runway and the crew expedited the aircraft’s deceleration. At the same time, the ARO looked up and observed the landing lights of an aircraft coming in to land on runway 10. The ARO moved his tools and the vehicle clear of the runway.

The ARO reported that he heard the broadcasts on the CTAF after the aircraft had landed, but they were illegible. The passenger services agent had reportedly heard the crew’s broadcasts on a radio located in the terminal office, but was not aware that runway works were in progress at the time.

As a result of this occurrence, Skippers Aviation has advised the ATSB that they are consistently educating all crews about maintaining a vigilant lookout, especially when operating at non-towered aerodromes.

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

  • All AROs are to be provided with practical training on communicating with aircraft personnel
  • a sign is to be used to advise terminal and ground/apron staff that an ARO is airside
  • utilise a pre-recorded message on the AFRU to advise pilots that an ARO is airside
  • scheduled aerodrome works to take into account known flight schedules
  • all aerodrome work notifications are to include a note for ARO’s to check with ground crew for any known aircraft movements for the day
  • known flight schedules are to be displayed in the airport terminal building and the ARO office
  • all aerodrome works are to be approved by the aerodrome manager
  • installation of a very high frequency (VHF) radio with an external speaker into two ARO vehicles
  • aerodrome CTAF/AFRU radios to be regularly inspected, ensuring that they are functioning correctly.

Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin Issue 19