On 26 August 2013, a Qantas Airways Boeing 737 aircraft, registered VH-VZA (VZA) was completing a scheduled passenger flight from Cairns, Queensland to Sydney, New South Wales.
After landing, at about 2010 Eastern Standard Time, VZA was cleared by air traffic control (ATC) to taxi to Bay 6 of the Domestic 1 (DOM 1) apron area at Sydney Airport. At about the same time, the captain observed the lights of a white security vehicle approaching from about 50 m away and about 90° to the right of the aircraft.
As the vehicle approached the intersection of the airside road and taxiway ‘Bravo 2’ the driver reported slowing to between 25 to 30 km/h. He looked to his left, but did not see the lights of VZA. Assuming the area was clear; he directed his attention to the parking bay area to the right.
The captain thought the vehicle would continue along the airside road, however, as the car continued in a northerly direction across the intersection the captain believed it was on a collision course with VZA. Realising the vehicle driver had not seen VZA the captain immediately stopped the aircraft.
The security vehicle continued toward the aircraft then came to an abrupt stop about 10 m to the right of the aircraft’s nose.
The ATSB published a research paper on ground operation occurrences at Australian airports over a 10-year period. This publication highlighted ground operations as potentially being one of the most dangerous areas of aircraft operation. Of the 282 ground occurrences reported to the ATSB between 1 January 1998 and 31 December 2008, 11 per cent happened when the aircraft was approaching the gate. About 37 per cent of the approaching the gate phase occurrences were attributed to near collisions with vehicles. These occurrences required immediate braking action by the flight crew or vehicle driver in order to avoid a collision.