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On 5 February 2017, at about 1639 Eastern Standard Time, a Bell 407 helicopter, registered VH-VHU (VHU), departed from Cairns Airport, Queensland, on a local scenic charter flight, tracking towards Green Island. On board were the pilot and six passengers.

At that time, a Piper PA-31-350 aircraft, registered VH-FDQ (FDQ), was also conducting a scenic charter flight in the area. At about 1640, when abeam Green Island at about 1,000 ft, the pilot of FDQ contacted the approach controller and requested a clearance to enter Cairns control zone.

At about 1643, the tower controller notified VHU that they were approaching the control boundary and that control services were terminated. The pilot of VHU changed their radio to the Marlin common traffic advisory frequency, and broadcast that they were at the zone boundary and would track direct to Green Island climbing from 500 ft to 1,000 ft. The pilot did not receive a response and commenced the climb.

About 30 seconds later, the approach controller cleared the pilot of FDQ to track to Cairns via a left base circuit leg for runway 15 at 1,500 ft.

As VHU approached 900 ft on climb, the pilot reported that their attention was inside the cockpit when the pilot subsequently scanned outside, they sighted an aircraft rapidly approaching in the opposite direction (FDQ). The pilot of VHU conducted a rapid descent to increase the separation with FDQ.

Both aircraft subsequently landed without further incident.

A search for other traffic is eight times more effective when a radio is used in combination with a visual lookout than when no radio is used. In areas outside controlled airspace, it is the pilot’s responsibility to maintain separation with other aircraft. For this, it is important that pilots use both alerted and un-alerted see-and-avoid principles.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 62

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General details
Date: 05 February 2017 Investigation status: Completed 
Time: 16:46 EST  
Location   (show map):Cairns Airport Investigation type: Occurrence Investigation 
State: Queensland Occurrence type: Airprox 
Release date: 05 September 2017 Occurrence class: Operational 
Report status: Final Occurrence category: Serious Incident 
 Highest injury level: None 
Aircraft 1 details
Aircraft manufacturer: Bell Helicopter Co 
Aircraft model: 407 
Aircraft registration: VH-VHU 
Serial number: 53524 
Type of operation: Charter 
Sector: Helicopter 
Damage to aircraft: Nil 
Departure point:Cairns, Qld
Destination:Cairns, Qld
Aircraft 2 details
Aircraft manufacturer: Piper Aircraft Corp 
Aircraft model: PA-31-350  
Aircraft registration: VH-FDQ  
Serial number: 31-7652150 
Type of operation: Charter 
Sector: Piston 
Damage to aircraft: Nil 
Departure point:Cairns, Qld
Destination:Cairns, Qld
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Last update 11 July 2018