Aviation safety investigations & reports

Separation issue involving Airbus A320, VH-VQG, and Aero Commander 500, VH-UJS, near Sunshine Coast Airport, Queensland, on 4 November 2019

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Final Report

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What happened

On the morning of 4 November 2019, an Airbus A320-200 aircraft, registered VH-VQG (VQG), was operating a scheduled passenger flight from Sydney, New South Wales, to Sunshine Coast, Queensland (Qld). As the aircraft was on final approach to land, a proximity event occurred with an Aero Commander 500 aircraft, registered VH-UJS (UJS), which was departing Sunshine Coast Airport on the reciprocal runway. The two aircraft paths converged, until the pilot of UJS conducted a right turn and increased the separation between them. The flight crew of VQG continued the approach and UJS continued to Maryborough, Qld, without further incident. The time of the incident was outside the operating hours of Sunshine Coast Airport air traffic control tower and it was therefore operating as a non-controlled aerodrome.

What the ATSB found

The ATSB found that important radio broadcasts made on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) were not heard by the flight crew of VQG and the pilot of UJS regarding each other’s position and intention. These included the inbound broadcasts made by VQG and the take-off broadcast made by UJS. In addition, the flight crew of VQG determined the most suitable runway based on the radio-transmitted aerodrome weather information service. However, this was either recorded incorrectly or heard incorrectly such that the chosen runway was the less favourable of the two options for the wind direction. This resulted in the aircraft approaching the opposite runway to other aircraft at the time. Finally, the pilot of the departing aircraft did not confirm the location and intention of the inbound aircraft prior to commencing take-off, as it was assumed the inbound aircraft would use the most suitable runway for the conditions.

Safety message

When operating in uncontrolled airspace and around non-towered aerodromes, it is important to ensure that the location and intention of surrounding traffic is well understood and communicated prior to commencing take-off or landing.

The ATSB SafetyWatch highlights the broad safety concerns that come out of our investigation findings and from the occurrence data reported to us by industry. One of the safety concerns is safety around non-controlled aerodromes. The ATSB SafetyWatch page provides information and resources about staying safe around non-controlled aerodromes. In addition, the ATSB booklet A pilot’s guide to staying safe in the vicinity of non-controlled aerodromes outlines many of the common problems that occur at non-controlled aerodromes, and offers useful strategies to keep yourself and other pilots safe.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has also produced a resource booklet ‘be heard, be seen, be safe’ which is in relation to radio procedures in uncontrolled airspace, and highlights that radios must always be used in conjunction with a safe ‘see-and-avoid’ procedure.

Download final report
[Download  PDF: 145KB]
Alternate: [Download  DOCX: 344KB]

The occurrence

General details
Date: 04 November 2019   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 06:35 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Sunshine Coast Airport   Investigation phase: Final report: Approval  
State: Queensland   Occurrence type: Separation issue  
Release date: 09 June 2020   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft 1 details

Aircraft 1 details
Aircraft manufacturer Airbus  
Aircraft model A320-232  
Aircraft registration VH-VQG  
Serial number 2787  
Operator Jetstar Airways  
Type of operation Air Transport High Capacity  
Sector Jet  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Sydney Airport, New South Wales  
Destination Sunshine Coast Airport, Queensland  

Aircraft 2 details

Aircraft 2 details
Aircraft manufacturer Aero Commander  
Aircraft model 500-S  
Aircraft registration VH-UJS  
Serial number 1797  
Operator General Aviation Maintenance  
Type of operation Charter  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Sunshine Coast Airport, Queensland  
Destination Maryborough Airport, Queensland  
Last update 23 June 2020