On 29 January 2014, at about 1100 Eastern Daylight-savings Time (EDT), the student pilot of a Piper PA-28-161 aircraft, registered VH-OWO (OWO), taxied to runway 17 Left (17 L) at Moorabbin Airport, Victoria to conduct solo circuits. A Cessna 172S aircraft, registered VH-FPV (FPV), was also conducting circuits from runway 17 L, with a student pilot and instructor on board.
After completing a touch-and-go circuit, the pilot of OWO was following an aircraft on upwind. As the pilot of OWO commenced his turn onto downwind, he sighted the aircraft he had been following and realised he had turned inside it. The pilot of OWO reported that, having ‘cut off’ an aircraft in the circuit, he was conscious of staying ahead of the aircraft. As OWO turned onto final, the pilot was instructed by the controller to go around as he was then too close to an aircraft conducting a full stop landing on the runway.
On his final circuit, the pilot of OWO reported downwind for a full stop landing. He was instructed to follow a Cessna (FPV) and sighted the aircraft. After completing downwind checks, he sighted an aircraft on final, assumed it was FPV and continued to follow that aircraft.
At about 1123, FPV was established on early final, at about 400 ft AGL, when he sighted OWO in a turn about 100 ft above and just in front of FPV. He immediately took control of the aircraft from the student and descended to increase the vertical separation between the two aircraft.
As the pilot of OWO commenced the turn onto final, at about 500 ft AGL, he sighted FPV to his right about 200 ft below OWO. He levelled OWO off to maintain separation between the two aircraft. The controller instructed the pilot of OWO to go around.
When operating in Class D airspace, pilots must sight and maintain separation from other aircraft. Pilots and ATC have a dual responsibility to maintain situational awareness of other traffic.