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Final Report

Summary

On 28 February 2016, at about 1642 Eastern Daylight-saving Time (EDT), a Cessna 150 aircraft, registered VH-RZP (RZP), departed from King Island Airport, Tasmania, for a flight to Barwon Heads Airport, Victoria. On board were a pilot and passenger.

The pilot in RZP made all the required common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) calls, while still on climb to 5,500 ft above mean sea level. At about the same time, two regular public transport (RPT) aircraft (‘Aircraft 2’ and VH-MYI) were on descent from flight levels and inbound to King Island.

At 1646, the crew of Aircraft 2 made an inbound broadcast when 30 NM from King Island Airport. The pilot of RZP responded, and mutually arranged separation with Aircraft 2. The crew of Aircraft 2 limited their descent to 6,500 ft until they obtain confirmation that RZP has passed beneath.

At around 14-15 NM north of the airport, the pilot of RZP changed the only radio fitted from the CTAF to the Melbourne Centre air traffic control (ATC) frequency.

At 1650, the flight crew of the second RPT aircraft, Sharp Airlines Fairchild SA227, registered VH-MYI (MYI), made a 30 NM inbound broadcast on the King Island CTAF. At the same time, the pilot in RZP contacted ATC to arrange overwater scheduled reporting.

After receiving this call, ATC checked that the crew of both RPT aircraft had heard the details, and were therefore aware of the pilot of RZP’s intentions. The crew of Aircraft 2 responded that they had, and when ATC asked again, the crew of MYI (who at the time had been broadcasting on the CTAF) advised that they had also heard the broadcast. Air traffic control then checked with the pilot of RZP that they were aware of the position and details of both RPT aircraft. They confirmed that they were and that Aircraft 2 had just passed above them.

The crew of both RPT aircraft unsuccessfully tried several times to make contact with the pilot of RZP on the CTAF, unaware that this aircraft had only one radio and the pilot was now primarily on the Melbourne Centre frequency.

The pilot of RZP briefly switched back to CTAF to confirm with the pilot of Aircraft 2 that they had seen them pass over.

The crew of MYI unsuccessfully tried again, on the CTAF, to establish the position and altitude of RZP. Not obtaining a response from RZP (as the pilot of RZP had switched the radio frequency back to Melbourne Centre) and unable to determine RZP’s exact position, the crew of MYI elected to temporarily stop their descent at 5,300 ft.

Shortly after, the passenger of RZP alerted the pilot of RZP to the approaching aircraft (MYI) on a reciprocal heading. About the same time, the crew of MYI reported seeing RZP ‘on a reciprocal heading and within a 100 ft of their altitude and about 200–300 m away’. The pilot of RZP quickly manoeuvred to the right, but the aircraft had passed MYI before the crew of MYI were able to react. There was a further radio exchange between the two crews after the pilot of RZP momentarily switched back to the CTAF.

This serious incident highlights the continued issue of the mix of aircraft in the vicinity of non-controlled airports. The ATSB is currently working on an update of the research report into safety in the vicinity of non-controlled aerodromes (previously published in 2010). The ATSB is also compiling a special aviation short investigation bulletin involving several recent near collisions in the vicinity of non-controlled aerodromes. 

 

Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 49

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