At about noon on 3 July 2014, an instructor and student were conducting training in the circuit at Roma Airport, Queensland, in a Skyfox Aviation CA25N aircraft, registered 24-3265. At the same time, a PA-28R, registered VH-WJO, was inbound to Roma Airport for a landing. The conditions were fine and clear.
As the PA-28R approached the airport, the CA25N instructor and the pilot of the PA-28R exchanged information regarding their respective positions and intentions on the Roma Airport Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF). During this exchange of information, the pilot of the PA-28R inadvertently miscommunicated his position, which left the CA25N instructor with an inaccurate perception of the position of the PA-28R and a misunderstanding with respect to the intentions of the PA-28R pilot. Similarly, based upon his interpretation of the information exchanged on the CTAF, the PA-28R pilot believed that he would be clear of the CA25N as he joined the circuit.
Despite their efforts, the CA25N crew and the PA-28R pilot were unable to sight the other aircraft until the downwind leg of the circuit when the CA25N instructor saw the PA-28R pass from left to right, about 100 metres ahead and about 200 ft above the CA25N. The CA25N instructor was then able to inform the pilot of the PA-28R of the relative position of the CA25N, allowing the pilot of the PA-28R to then sight the CA25N over his left shoulder. Both aircraft then continued for an uneventful landing, the CA25N landing ahead of the PA-28R which flew a wider circuit.
Although the CA25N instructor and PA-28R pilot were communicating on the CTAF and attempting to establish visual contact, separation seems to have been compromised on this occasion due to the limited effectiveness of the CTAF communications and the limitations of each pilot’s lookout. Lookout effectiveness was probably compromised by a combination of CTAF miscommunication, the geometry of the event and sun glare.
This incident highlights the importance of an effective lookout, and accurate and timely communication. These are fundamental pillars supporting the principles of alerted see-and-avoid.