Safety Advisory Notice SAN19970130

Safety Advisory Notice issued to: Airservices Australia

Recommendation details
Output No: SAN19970130
Date issued: 17 September 1997
Safety action status: Closed


Coordination problems between Brisbane Sector 7 and Townsville Air Traffic Control (ATC) operator positions.


There have been six incidents (see Appendix A) in which coordination between Brisbane Sector 7 and Townsville controllers has not been conducted. Additionally, information obtained during the investigation of an incident (9603722) in 1996 indicated that there were limitations due to the single communication line between the two units.


Aircraft movement coordination between Brisbane Sector 7 and Townsville ATC operator positions is constrained at times by the single inter-communication line.


Current situation

There have been five reported occurrences of errors in coordination between Sector 7 and Townsville ATC operator positions during 1997. These occurrences may have been due to controller error or an inability to readily access the shared communication line. There is a perception that the single shared communication line between Townsville and Sector 7 operator positions is limiting the conduct of timely coordination.

Anecdotal evidence from the ATC Safety Audit team visit to Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Townsville during the period 21 - 24 July 1997, indicated that access to the shared communication line was a limitation on the controller's ability to conduct timely coordination.

The level of concern is not supported by incident reports to date. The controllers stated that they were reluctant to report every incident of missed or late coordination. In a number of cases the situation was discussed by the relevant RAAF supervisor and the Brisbane team leader. However, there were no formal reports submitted on these incidents. Consequently, there is limited data to support the premise that access to the line is a problem.

Airservices Australia Northern District has submitted a proposal for an additional communication line between Sector 7 and Townsville ATC operator positions. The audit team agreed with this proposal and recommended that RAAF Townsville ATC submit an engineering change proposal in support of an additional line.

Post-TAAATS implementation situation

The proposed communication facilities for The Australian Advanced Air Traffic System (TAAATS) will provide an increased level of inter-communication lines between Brisbane and Townsville operator positions. However, prior to the acceptance into service of TAAATS, new procedures or inter-communication lines are required to reduce the coordination problems.


9603722 14 Nov. 1996

The controller became task saturated and overlooked the possibility of a B747 and a B737 coming into conflict. The aircraft passed with a horizontal separation of 2 NM and at the same level.

9700466 17 Feb. 1997

The Townsville Approach controller did not coordinate the departure of the aircraft with the Brisbane Sector 7V controller. The aircraft was given traffic information on another military aircraft. There was no breakdown of separation.

9700963 18 Feb. 1997

Departure coordination was not passed to Brisbane Sector 7 on a RAAF IFR aircraft proceeding outside controlled airspace.

9701403 30 Apr. 1997

The pilot of VH-TMP contacted the Sector 7 controller at 0532. No departure coordination had been received from Townsville Approach. The Approach controller later advised the aircraft had departed at 0518.

9701404 30 Apr. 1997

The pilot of VH-FCL reported to the Sector 7V controller at 0242. No departure coordination had been received from Townsville Approach. Subsequent investigation revealed that the aircraft had departed at 0238. There was no breakdown of separation with any other aircraft.

9701839 3 Jun. 1997

The Sector 7 controller did not coordinate with Townsville Tower the estimate for the aircraft. As a result, there was no separation assurance applied between the aircraft and Restricted Area R744A, which was active at the time.

Output text

Airservices Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force should note the safety deficiency detailed in this report and take appropriate action.

Initial response
Date issued:
Response from: Royal Australian Air Force
Action status: Not Required
Response text:
Last update 01 April 2011