Aviation safety investigations & reports

Loss of separation between an Airbus A320, VH-VFJ and a Bell 412, VH-VAO at Avalon Airport, Vic., 4 July 2013

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


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In the evening of 4 July 2013 at 2040 Eastern Standard Time, a loss of separation occurred between an Airbus A320 operated by Jetstar, registered VH‑VFJ (VFJ), conducting a missed approach from a VOR approach to runway 36 at Avalon Airport, Victoria and a Bell 412, registered VH‑VAO (VAO), departing Avalon for Warrnambool, Victoria.

As the air traffic control tower at Avalon was closed, the airspace immediately above Avalon to a height of 700 ft was classified as Class G. From 700 ft to 4,500 ft the airspace was Class E, and above that was Class C. Air traffic services were being provided by a controller also responsible for Melbourne Departures. Aircraft in Class G were required to make broadcasts on the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF). Due to the airspace configuration, pilots of IFR aircraft operating into and out of Avalon were required to monitor both the Avalon CTAF and the Avalon Approach frequency.

As a result of this occurrence, Jetstar has advised the ATSB that a technical newsletter will be sent to company flight crew highlighting the incident and emphasising the joint responsibility for maintaining separation assurance; providing guidance with regard to correct controller / flight crew interactions, specifically in relation to a clearance to leave and re-enter controlled airspace in the event of a missed approach at CTAFs with low overlying controlled airspace; and providing guidance with regard to controller expectation of the transfer of responsibility for separation from within the CTAF (on approach) to controlled airspace (in the event of a missed approach).

As a result of this occurrence, Airservices is currently undertaking a review of the risk profile associated with Avalon operations and airspace design. Of concern are the small layers of differing airspace classes with different service levels and frequency requirements. Pending the findings of the review, Airservices may request that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) conduct an aeronautical study of the airspace surrounding Avalon Airport.

This incident demonstrates that, while expediting traffic is an important objective for a controller, safety must always be the first consideration. The incident also highlights the joint separation and communication responsibilities between flight crews and controllers in the Avalon airspace when Avalon Tower is not active.


Aviation Short Investigation Bulletin - Issue 23

Download Final Report
[Download  PDF: 168KB]
Alternate: [Download  DOCX: 425KB]
General details
Date: 04 July 2013   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 2040 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Avalon airport    
State: Victoria   Occurrence type: Loss of separation  
Release date: 31 October 2013   Occurrence category: Serious Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft 1 details

Aircraft 1 details
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus  
Aircraft model A320  
Aircraft registration VH-VFJ  
Serial number 5311  
Operator Jetstar Airways  
Type of operation Air Transport High Capacity  
Sector Jet  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Sydney, NSW  
Destination Avalon, Vic  

Aircraft 2 details

Aircraft 2 details
Aircraft manufacturer Bell Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model 412  
Aircraft registration VH-VAO  
Serial number 36507  
Type of operation Medical Transport  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Avalon, Vic  
Destination Warrnambool, Vic  
Last update 14 November 2018