Safety Advisory Notice SAN19980117

Safety Advisory Notice issued to: Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Recommendation details
Output No: SAN19980117
Date issued: 01 September 1998
Safety action status: Closed



Between October 1995 and July 1997 the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation undertook a study of the safety of Australian regional airlines. The objectives of this study were to:

(a) identify safety deficiencies affecting regional airline operations in Australia; and
(b) identify means of reducing the impact on safety of these deficiencies.

For the purposes of the survey, regional airlines were grouped according to the number of passenger seats fitted to the largest aircraft operated by that airline in January 1997. The groups are defined as follows:

(a) group 1: 1-9 seats;
(b) group 2: 10-19 seats; and
(c) group 3: more than 20 seats.

The study involved analysing data obtained from:

(a) responses to a survey of Australian regional airline employees;
(b) discussions with Australian regional airline employees and managers; and
(c) air safety occurrence reports involving regional airlines over a 10-year period (1986-1995) from the BASI database.

This Safety Advisory Notice addresses one of the safety deficiencies identified as a result of this study.


The lights in the railway yards near Gladstone airfield may provide pilots with visual cues which create a false perception of the alignment of the runway.

Survey Results

In their survey answers, four respondents stated that the Callemondah marshalling yard lights could 'drown out' the runway lights and create the illusion of a false runway. The railway yard was reported as being illuminated by bright lights, which were adjacent to the final approach path for runway 10 at Gladstone. In addition, the final approach track for the instrument approach to runway 10 is slightly offset to the alignment of the runway due to terrain considerations. As no respondents mentioned any safety concerns about lights near other airfields, the comments regarding Gladstone airfield were considered significant.

"At night in poor weather, the runway lighting is totally overpowered by the adjacent (and almost parallel) railway yards with very bright flood lighting. More than one aircraft has lined up on the finals for the railway yards in these conditions when landing on runway 10."

- Pilot, respondent 472.

The four respondents to this question operated group 3 aircraft and each had accrued more than 13,000 hours total flying experience.

Discussion with the chief pilots of the two major regional airlines that service Gladstone airfield revealed that they were both aware of the problem, and that the training program for each company was structured to impart sound local knowledge of the area.

Discussions with representatives of Queensland Rail revealed that it could be possible for more shielding to be added to the lights and that they would be willing to investigate the problem. By invoking Civil Aviation Regulation 94, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) could require the removal or shielding of any light likely to endanger the safety of aircraft.

Related Incident

Poor visibility and a night approach were two of the factors contributing to an incident in 1989, when a Boeing 737 attempted to land on a main road at Mackay. The air traffic controller alerted the pilots that they were not aligned with the runway; however, the aircraft descended to 168 ft AGL before it was established in a go-around. The crew had misidentified a main road near the Mackay airfield as runway 14.


The lights in the Callemondah marshalling yards, adjacent to the runway 10 threshold at Gladstone, cause the greatest potential for harm when a pilot is unfamiliar with the area and/or operating at night or in poor visibility. The recent publication of runway approaches may help to alleviate the problem to some extent, as aircraft should be reasonably well aligned with the runway when approaching the minimum descent altitude. However, as the yard lights have been reported as being more visible than the runway lights, they have the potential to influence the pilot's selection of a final approach path. This is of particular concern if the pilot is not accurately maintaining the correct final approach track. Additionally, as the final approach track for the instrument approach to runway 10 is slightly offset to the alignment of the runway, there is an increased potential for pilots to misidentify the correct location of the runway.

Output text

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority should note the safety deficiency identified in this document and take appropriate action.

The Bureau simultaneously issues SAN980118 to alert Queensland Rail to this safety deficiency.

Initial response
Date issued:
Response from: Civil Aviation Safety Authority
Action status: Not Required
Response text:
Last update 01 April 2011