On 5 March 2014 at about 1044 Eastern Standard Time, an ATR 72 aircraft, registered VH-FVI (FVI), was about 25 NM southeast of Moranbah, Queensland on descent to the airport.
The captain of FVI broadcast on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF), advising that the aircraft was inbound and planned to conduct a non-directional beacon (NDB) approach, with an estimated arrival time of 1049 overhead the airport. At about 1047, the captain broadcast when 10 NM SE tracking NW to conduct an NDB A approach. At 1049, the captain broadcast tracking outbound in the approach and that they “should be turning straight in for a landing runway 16”.
At about 1050, following the report of a suspected birdstrike by the aircraft just landed, the aerodrome reporting officer (ARO) on duty was in the airport terminal when asked by airport ground staff to conduct a runway inspection. At about 1052 the ARO broadcast on the CTAF advising that the vehicle was preparing to enter the runway for a runway inspection. The ARO then conducted a thorough lookout for aircraft approaching and on the runway with no aircraft sighted. He then broadcast a call entering the runway and commenced driving north along the runway. When at the northern threshold, the vehicle turned and drove south along the runway.
The crew of FVI did not hear either broadcast from the ARO. At about 1055, when at about 20 ft above ground level (AGL), the captain looked up out of the cockpit along the runway and sighted the safety vehicle on the white runway aiming point markings near the far end of the runway. The captain immediately broadcast “car vacate”. The ARO immediately drove the vehicle off the runway and once clear, broadcast that the safety vehicle had now vacated all runways.
This incident highlights the importance of radio communications and the benefits of alerted see-and-avoid practices.