On 17 April 2013, the crew of a Piper PA31-350 aircraft, registered VH‑EDV (EDV), were conducting a flight from Flinders Island, Tasmania to Moorabbin Airport, Victoria under instrument flight rules (IFR). During the descent to Moorabbin, the aircraft entered visual meteorological conditions and the crew advised that they intended to track visually via the visual flight rules (VFR) reporting point at Carrum to Moorabbin.
At about the same time, a Cessna R172K, registered VH‑JQQ (JQQ), was in transit via the VFR Coastal Route for the Tyabb, Victoria area. To remain in gliding distance of the coast, the pilot of the single-engine aircraft JQQ, elected to cross the coastline at Ricketts Point. With a clearance obtained from Moorabbin Tower, JQQ transited the western edge of the Moorabbin control zone flying about 1.5 NM off the coast, from Ricketts Point to Carrum at 1,500 ft.
EDV called Moorabbin Tower at Carrum, at about 1,500 ft on a descent profile to arrive at the entry of Moorabbin control zone at the required altitude of 1,000 ft.
Less than a minute later, at about 1022, just over 5 NM south-west of Moorabbin, the pilot of JQQ saw EDV on a reciprocal track and the ICUS pilot in EDV saw the lights of JQQ. EDV commenced a descending turn to the right, as JQQ commenced a climb to the right, resulting in JQQ passing over EDV with about 200 ft vertical separation.
As a result of this occurrence, the operator of JQQ has advised the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) that they are looking at the safest route to track from Westgate Bridge to Tyabb and have initiated consultation with Moorabbin Tower to determine the correct altitude for this leg.
This incident highlights the importance of good flight planning and preparation, in particular complying with tracking instructions for VFR routes. It also highlights the importance of being aware of other aircraft potentially operating in the area, particularly around VFR approach points.