Aviation occurrence briefs

Failure to pass traffic involving a Robinson 66 and a Robinson 44, near Darwin, NT, on 3 July 2018

Status: Completed
Investigation completed


Occurrence Briefs are concise reports that detail the facts surrounding a transport safety occurrence, as received in the initial notification and any follow-up enquiries. They provide an opportunity to share safety messages in the absence of an investigation.

What happened

On 3 July 2018 at approximately 1330 Central Standard Time, two Robinson helicopters were conducting flights at the boundary of the Darwin control zone, in class C airspace. One of the Robinsons, an R44, had just departed Charles Darwin National Park to conduct a charter flight and was tracking via Elizabeth River Bridge. The other, an R66, was engaged in a general aviation flight and had departed Wishart Road, also tracking towards Elizabeth River Bridge. Both aircraft were operating under VFR[1] and ATC were aware of their operations.

The helicopters were approximately less than half a mile apart before ATC passed traffic information to either helicopter. The crew of the R44 had sighted the R66 approaching from an 8 o’clock position and was tracking at the same level, approximately 1,000 ft AGL. The pilot of the R44 conducted an avoidance manoeuvre, turning right of the approaching helicopter to maintain separation.

Both aircraft proceeded on their flights with nil further impact.

Safety message

In class C airspace, controllers will pass traffic information between VFR aircraft and the aircraft must maintain communication with ATC.

This incident highlights the importance of always maintaining situational awareness. ATC provided late traffic information, however the two VFR aircraft were able to sight each other and were able to conduct avoiding manoeuvres to maintain separation.

About this report

Decisions regarding whether to conduct an investigation, and the scope of an investigation, are based on many factors, including the level of safety benefit likely to be obtained from an investigation. For this occurrence, no investigation has been conducted and the ATSB did not verify the accuracy of the information. A brief description has been written using information supplied in the notification and any follow-up information in order to produce a short summary report, and allow for greater industry awareness of potential safety issues and possible safety actions.



  1. Visual flight rules (VFR): a set of regulations that permit a pilot to operate an aircraft only in weather conditions generally clear enough to allow the pilot to see where the aircraft is going.
General details
Date: 03 July 2018   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 1330 CST    
Location   (show map): Near Darwin    
State: Northern Territory    
Release Date: 17 December 2018   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft 1 details

Aircraft 1 details
Aircraft manufacturer Robinson Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model R44  
Type of operation Charter  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Charles Darwin National Park, NT  
Destination Darwin, NT  

Aircraft 2 details

Aircraft 2 details
Aircraft manufacturer Robinson Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model R66  
Type of operation General Aviation  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Wishart Road, Darwin, NT  
Destination Elizabeth River Bridge, Darwin, NT  
Last update 17 December 2018