On 21 May 2014, a Grob G115, registered VH-BBJ (BBJ) and a Grob G115, registered VH-ZIM (ZIM) were both conducting duel flight training, in the northern training area, near Merredin aeroplane landing area (ALA), Western Australia.

The student pilot of ZIM was conducting a pre license general flying progress test. After completion of the training area component of the test, in the northern training area, the student pilot navigated to the inbound reporting point near Burracoppin, at an altitude of about 3,500 feet above mean sea level (AMSL). During the flight, the student became disorientated and tracked toward the town of Merredin, instead of Merredin ALA. The student was not able to locate Merredin ALA and the instructor provided assistance by pointing out land features. 

At about the same time, the instructor of BBJ had just completed basic instrument flying with the student in the northern training area. The student tracked to the south east, toward Burracoppin at 3,500 feet AMSL. The aircraft remained clear of the inbound track from Burracoppin to Merredin ALA. The instructor broadcast their intentions on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF).

As ZIM turned to navigate toward Merredin ALA, the instructor observed BBJ, which appeared to take up almost the entire windscreen. The instructor took over control of the aircraft, and took evasive action, pushing the control column forward and descending. At about the same time, the instructor of BBJ observed ZIM straight ahead, at or just below the horizon coming towards them. The instructor also took over control of the aircraft, to take evasive action, pulling the control column rearward and climbing.

Both aircraft returned to Merredin without further incident. The pilots of both aircraft were uninjured and neither aircraft was damaged.

The serious incident highlights that it is difficult for pilots to spot another aircraft through visual observation alone.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 38