Aviation safety investigations & reports

Aircraft performance and cockpit visibility study supporting investigation into the mid-air collision involving VH-AEM and VH-JQF near Mangalore Airport, Victoria on 19 February 2020

Investigation number:
AS-2022-001
Status: Completed
Investigation completed
Phase: Final report: Dissemination Read more information on this investigation phase

Final

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What was done

As part of the investigation into the mid-air collision involving Piper PA-44-180 Seminole, VH-JQF, and Beech D95A Travel Air, VH-AEM, near Mangalore Airport, Victoria, on 19 February 2020 (AO-2020-012) the ATSB identified concerns around the pilots' ability to visually identify the other aircraft in time to take avoiding action.

In response to this, the ATSB initiated an aircraft performance and cockpit visibility study to determine at what times the aircraft may have been visible to the crew of the opposing aircraft.

This assessment involved the review of available literature covering the see and avoid concept, the techniques used to assess visibility and analysis of the recorded automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) data from each aircraft. Exemplar aircraft were modelled, and this information was used to calculate the positions of aircraft structure relative to the pilots’ eye positions. This, combined with the analysed ADS-B data, was used to perform an assessment of the size and location of the other aircraft in the pilots’ field of view. Following this an assessment of the benefits of ADS-B IN systems for the purposes of enhancing a pilot’s mental model was undertaken. Finally, using this information an animation was developed that represented the flights from the perspective of each of the pilots involved. The animation also includes a cockpit display of traffic information to demonstrate the benefits ADS-B IN information could have provided for the early detection of the conflicting traffic.

What the ATSB found

The study found that the pilots of both aircraft were unlikely to have acquired the other aircraft visually due to meteorological factors, aircraft closing speed and shielding of the opposing aircraft by cockpit structure with 2 of the 4 pilots likely having the opposing aircraft shielded from their view at key moments. The ATSB analysis indicated that even in clear conditions, more favourable to visual acquisition, the closing speed and shielding by the aircraft structure would have limited opportunities to acquire the other aircraft.

Neither accident aircraft was equipped with ADS-B IN systems. The study shows that had the aircraft been equipped with this technology the pilots would have been alerted to the position of the other aircraft much earlier than by visual acquisition. Both a cockpit display of traffic information with an ADS-B traffic alerting system or an electronic conspicuity device connected to an electronic flight bag application could have provided this. While effective radio communication remains the primary means of self-separation in non-controlled airspace, the targeted and accurate information provided by ADS-B IN can provide the pilot significant assistance.

Safety message

To ensure that a pilot’s mental models of conflicting traffic is accurate, they should use all available information, including the rules of the air, radio, air traffic control (ATC) services and visual scanning to locate and separate from other traffic. Where a visual scan is being used, pilots should always remember to move the whole head to avoid approaching traffic being shielded behind structure within their field of view.

The proliferation of relatively low-cost ADS-B IN and ADS-B OUT equipment, whether inbuilt or in conjunction with electronic flight bag applications on personal electronic devices can provide a significant improvement in this capability. With ADS-B IN and ADS-B OUT installed, aircraft can be more certain of the location of traffic, particularly outside ATC radar and ADS-B ground station coverage areas.

Acknowledgements

The ATSB acknowledges the assistance of the United States National Transportation Safety Board Office of Research and Engineering, the RTCA (formerly Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics), Moorabbin Air Services and Yarra Valley Aviation in the development and preparation of this study.

Download Safety Study
[Download  PDF: 23.35MB]
 
 
 

Introduction

Background

Methodology and results

Conclusion

References

Glossary

Sources and submissions

Attachment A - Extremities of pilot’s eye position

Attachment B - Simulated cockpit view – sky clear

Australian Transport Safety Bureau

Summary

As part of the investigation into the mid-air collision involving Piper PA-44-180 Seminole, VH-JQF, and Beech D95A Travel Air, VH-AEM, near Mangalore Airport, Victoria, on 19 February 2020 (AO-2020-012) ATSB investigators identified concerns around the pilots' ability to effectively identify the other aircraft in sufficient time to effectively manoeuvre.

In response to this, the ATSB initiated an aircraft performance and cockpit visibility study to determine at what times the aircraft may have been visible to one another and what effect human performance limitations and the aircraft structure could have had on the visibility of the opposing aircraft.

General details
  Investigation status: Completed  
  Investigation level: Defined - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
  Investigation phase: Final report: Dissemination  
Release date: 22 June 2022    
Report status: Final    
Last update 22 June 2022