On 12 February 2013, a Skywest Airlines ATR72 aircraft, registered VH-FVH (FVH), departed Sydney on a scheduled passenger service to Port Macquarie, New South Wales, under the instrument flight rules (IFR). The crew planned to enter the Port Macquarie non-directional (radio) beacon (NDB) holding pattern at 3,600 ft and then conduct an NDB approach to runway 21.
When inbound to Port Macquarie, the crew heard a taxi call from the crew of an Eastern Australia Airlines Bombardier DHC-8-315 aircraft, registered VH-TQZ (TQZ), operating an IFR scheduled passenger service from Port Macquarie to Sydney.
The crews of both FVH and TQZ discussed their respective positions and intentions and the crew of TQZ stated that they would advise FVH when they were about to take-off.
When lined up on runway 03, the crew of TQZ observed FVH on the aircraft’s traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS), positioned directly overhead the airport and turning outbound in the holding pattern. The crew of TQZ broadcast a call advising FVH they were about to commence the take-off run and intended to conduct a left turn at 600 ft.
When on downwind, approaching 3,000 ft in IMC, the captain of TQZ observed an aircraft on the TCAS, above. The captain identified the aircraft as FVH and instructed the first officer to stop the climb and turn the aircraft to the right. Shortly after, the crew received a TCAS traffic advisory (TA) and then an initial resolution advisory (RA) to descend, followed shortly after by an RA to ‘adjust vertical speed’. At the same time, while also in IMC, the crew of FVH also reported receiving a TCAS TA and then a TCAS RA to climb. The captain of FVH immediately responded and climbed the aircraft. Both flights continued without further incident.
It is essential that pilots monitor their surroundings and have an awareness of traffic disposition. It is important to know where the traffic is and where it will be in relation to you, so that potential issues can be identified and actioned, before they escalate. This is particularly important when operating at non-towered aerodromes, where aircraft separation is pilot responsibility.