air safety

Feb 27, 2013

Darwin inquiry into near miss by two jet airliners updated

Last October a Qantaslink 717 approaching Darwin Airport from Alice Springs, and a Qantas 737-800 that was climbing away on a flight to Melbourne were misdirected by military air traffi

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

Last October a Qantaslink 717 approaching Darwin Airport from Alice Springs, and a Qantas 737-800 that was climbing away on a flight to Melbourne were misdirected by military air traffic control to a situation in which the outbound jet passed under the inbound jet with only 900 feet to spare. This is but one of a number of disturbing air traffic control standards breakdowns that have recently occurred to scheduled passenger flights that come under military ATC control at Darwin and at Williamtown which is also used as Newcastle's airport. The ATSB has updated its investigation into that incident as follows:

On 2 October 2012, a loss of separation occurred between a Boeing 717 (717) aircraft, registered VH-NXQ and operating a scheduled passenger service from Alice Springs to Darwin, Northern Territory, and a Boeing 737 (737), registered VH-VXM, operating a scheduled passenger service from Darwin to Melbourne, Victoria. The aircraft were under the jurisdiction of military air traffic control (ATC) at the time of the occurrence.

At 1338 Central Standard Time, Brisbane Centre handed over control of the 717 to Darwin ATC. The crew had been cleared to descend from flight level (FL) 320 to 10,000 ft and track direct to Darwin for runway 29.

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3 comments

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3 thoughts on “Darwin inquiry into near miss by two jet airliners updated

  1. Wild Bill

    Ben, to answer your questions:
    The system used by military ATC (ADATS as its locally known) is outdated and half the functionality does not work. This is a separate discussion however!
    Labels on the Radar screen frequently switch when you have two paints that come in from opposite sides of the Radar at similar position. It’s called a label swap by Mil ATC. There is also an issue with ‘Ghosting’, where a fictitious paint is displayed on the opposite side of the screen to an inbound aircraft, however it’s normally a primary paint only. The label should automatically be assigned to an aircraft that is inbound and squaking a discreet code, which would have been the case of the 717. That said, the label swap should have been detected by the APR controller given that the MIL ACFT and the 717 were inbound on very different tracks.

    My question is why if the 737 was instructed at 8,400ft to stop climb at 9,000ft did they bust the level by 100ft? Surely they would not have been at such a rate of climb that arresting it in 600ft was not possible? If they had stopped at 9,000ft as assigned, then this issue would not have been attracting any attention.

    That said, it is evident that there are fundamental issues being experienced by MIL ATC, predominately due to a lack of experience, and retention issues with senior controllers. This is the real issue that should be discussed.

  2. Nasty Go Round

    That sounds like a shambles.

  3. ghostwhowalksnz

    With the military use of the airport only a fraction of the the general and commercial use , why are military ATC and systems even being used

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