Section 21 (2) of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 (TSI Act) empowers the ATSB to discontinue an investigation into a transport safety matter at any time. Section 21 (3) of the TSI Act requires the ATSB to publish a statement setting out the reasons for discontinuing an investigation. The statement is published as a report in accordance with section 25 of the TSI Act, capturing information from the investigation up to the time of discontinuance.
Overview of the investigation
On 8 May 2019, the ATSB commenced an investigation into the descent below minimum safe altitude involving a Regional Express Saab 340B aircraft, registered VH-OLM which occurred 15 km south-west of Williamtown Aerodrome (Newcastle Airport), New South Wales, on the evening of 28 March 2019, at about 1942 Eastern Daylight-saving Time.
As part of the investigation, the ATSB interviewed the aircraft flight crew and Williamtown Aerodrome air traffic controllers. The operator’s Route Manual was examined for information relating to the conduct of visual approaches and specific information about the operation of flights into Williamtown. The ATSB also reviewed Airservices Australia’s requirements of the conduct of visual approaches and the required segment minimum safe altitude at Williamtown Aerodrome.
Air traffic control (ATC) cleared the flight crew to conduct a visual approach via a right base circuit leg to runway 12, and told the flight crew to report once they were ‘on base’. The aircraft had descended to 900 ft when the flight crew contacted ATC to report that they were on base. The controller then looked for the aircraft again and observed that the aircraft was further away than the expected position (about 4.7 NM south of the airport) and according to the radar display, below the segment minimum safe altitude. The controller then issued a safety alert and instructed the flight crew to climb. The flight crew complied with the instruction to climb. The aircraft landed without further incident.
The ATSB found the flight crew had misjudged the aircraft’s position relative to the aerodrome while conducting a night visual approach.
Based on a review of the available evidence, the ATSB considered it was unlikely that further investigation would identify any systemic safety issues. Consequently, the ATSB has discontinued this investigation.
The evidence collected during this investigation remains available to be used in future investigations or safety studies. The ATSB will monitor for any similar occurrence that may indicate a need to undertake a further safety investigation.
- The approach started five minutes before the end of nautical twilight.
- Eastern Daylight-saving Time (EDT) was Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) + 11 hours.
- Aeronautical Information Publication, 28 February 2019, Airservices Australia.
- DME or GNSS Arrival Procedures Williamtown, NSW (YWLM), 28 February 2019, Airservices Australia.
|Date:||28 March 2019||Investigation status:||Discontinued|
|Time:||1945 EST||Investigation level:||Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels|
|Location:||9 km south-west Williamtown Airport||Investigation phase:||Final report: Dissemination|
|State:||New South Wales||Occurrence type:||Flight below minimum altitude|
|Release date:||25 May 2020||Occurrence category:||Incident|
|Report status:||Discontinued||Highest injury level:||None|
|Anticipated completion:||2nd Quarter 2020|
|Aircraft manufacturer||Saab Aircraft Co.|
|Type of operation||Air Transport Low Capacity|
|Damage to aircraft||Nil|
|Departure point||Sydney, NSW|