Aviation safety investigations & reports

Near collision involving Robinson R22, VH-MFH, and Lancair, VH-XCG, Ballina Byron Gateway Airport, NSW on 22 April 2016

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed

Final Report

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On 22 April 2016, an instructor and student were conducting flight training in a Robinson R22 helicopter, registered VH-MFH (MFH), at Ballina Byron Gateway (Ballina) Airport, New South Wales (NSW).

On the same morning, the pilot of a Lancair aeroplane, registered VH-XCG (XCG), was conducting a private flight under the instrument flight rules (IFR), from Wedderburn Airport, NSW, to Ballina Airport, with one passenger on board.

At about 1006 Eastern Standard Time, the instructor of MFH broadcast on the Ballina common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) that they were established on runway 24 and would be conducting low-level operations on the runway for the next 15 minutes. 

At about the same time, XCG was approaching Ballina via an area navigation (RNAV) approach to runway 24. The pilot reported that their attention was focused on the newly installed electronic instrumentation and associated navigation system. When the aircraft was descending through about 500 ft on final approach, the pilot sighted a helicopter (MFH) ahead on the runway threshold, and realised they had omitted to select the CTAF and to broadcast an inbound call.

At about 1012, MFH was stationary on the threshold of runway 24, facing along the runway to the south-west. The instructor of MFH communicated with the pilot of another helicopter operating at the aerodrome to arrange mutual separation. Soon after, the pilot of the other helicopter broadcast ‘the plane coming in on runway 24, your intentions?’ There was no response to this transmission.

That call alerted the instructor of MFH to the aeroplane approaching runway 24 (XCG). The instructor looked out of the helicopter door, and sighted XCG, which was behind them on final approach to runway 24, and estimated the aircraft to be about 200 to 500 m away. The instructor immediately took control of the helicopter from the student and vacated the runway to the grassed area north of the runway.

After initially sighting MFH on the runway, the pilot of XCG considered conducting a go-around, but then observed MFH lift off and move to the grass area north of the runway. The pilot of XCG elected to continue the approach, and landed on runway 24.

Insufficient communication between pilots operating in the same area is the most common cause of safety incidents near non-controlled aerodromes.


Aviation Short Investigations Bulletin - Issue 51

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[Download  PDF: 159KB]
Alternate: [Download  DOCX: 166KB]

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General details
Date: 22 April 2016   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 10:15 EST   Investigation level: Short - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): near Ballina Byron Gateway Airport    
State: New South Wales   Occurrence type: Near collision  
Release date: 08 September 2016   Occurrence category: Incident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: None  

Aircraft 1 details

Aircraft 1 details
Aircraft manufacturer Amateur Built Aircraft  
Aircraft model Lancair IV  
Aircraft registration VH-XCG  
Serial number LIV-188  
Type of operation Private  
Sector Piston  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Wedderburn, NSW  
Destination Ballina/Byron Gateway, NSW  

Aircraft 2 details

Aircraft 2 details
Aircraft manufacturer Robinson Helicopter Co  
Aircraft model R22 BETA  
Aircraft registration VH-MFH  
Serial number 2266  
Type of operation Flying Training  
Sector Helicopter  
Damage to aircraft Nil  
Departure point Ballina/Byron Gateway, NSW  
Destination Ballina/Byron Gateway, NSW  
Last update 14 November 2018