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Mid-air collision narrowly avoided when charter planes came within metres of each other near Darwin in 2017

A mid-air collision between two light aircraft was narrowly avoided when the planes came within metres of each other outside of Darwin.

A report released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) detailed the moment when one Cessna carrying two passengers swooped in front of the other on December 6, 2017.


The passenger charter planes, run by Chartair and Hardy Aviation, were both flying from Darwin to the remote community of Wadeye in the NT's west.


"The pilot of [the Chartair plane] commented that ... [the plane] came from the left top corner of his windshield across the nose to the bottom right in front of him and filled the windscreen," the report read.


"He estimated the two aircraft passed three to four metres apart."


The two planes took off from the Top End capital roughly one minute apart from one another.


One plane was carrying two passengers while the other had only the pilot.


Pilot 'surprised by proximity'

The near miss occurred 46 kilometres south-west of Darwin, about 20 minutes after take-off, with the approach controller triggering a "safety alert".


"[Hardy Aviation] by radar is on top of you ... Deviate up to three [nautical] miles right of track and maintain 6,000 [ft] until clear," the controller said.


The pilot of the Hardy Aviation plane said when the other Cessna appeared "in the pilot's five o'clock position" he "reported being surprised of its close proximity".

"He and the passengers in HPA estimated the aircraft came within five metres of each other," the report read.

The review of radar data identified that the positions of the aircraft were different from those advised from air traffic control in Darwin.


"The approach controller recalled assessing that [Chartair] might be required to descend to the cleared altitude of 6,000 ft at the time the instruction was issued," the report read.


"In response to that transmission, the pilot of [Chartair] advised that [Hardy] was now to the right of their track, so [Chartair] would stay to the left."


The two planes then continued to Wadeye without incident.

Pilots and controllers have 'joint responsibility'

In its findings, the ATSB said the "approach controller did not verify the initial altitude of [Chartair], which was outside the allowable 200 ft tolerance".


"That resulted in the two aircraft being significantly vertically closer than displayed and, in turn, the controller issuing a safety alert after the near collision had occurred," the report read.


It also found that after the pilot of Chartair had lost sight of the Hardy flight, "he advised air traffic control and took no further action to ensure segregation between the aircraft".


In a safety message, the ATSB indicated that "pilots and air traffic controllers have a joint responsibility to avoid collisions between aircraft".


However, it also indicated that the main onus in such situations was on the pilot.


"In controlled airspace, air traffic controllers are not required to provide pilots of aircraft operating under the Visual Flight Rules (VFR) with separation from other VFR aircraft," it said.


"While air traffic controllers can provide traffic information to pilots of VFR flights, see-and-avoid is the primary means of preventing collisions between VFR aircraft."


Chartair, Hardy Aviation and the ATSB have been contacted for comment.

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  IF you have no sighting of a plane near you, you need some positive form of separation applied till you do, otherwise you are going by "feel and luck" and that's dangerous. Everyone using GPS makes tracking more accurate and builds in an extra risk of collision, as more planes are in a selected area in a better position to collide.. I consider parallel track at 10 miles  (or so) to travel in a less congested parcel of air, and report position near fixed "on track" features as is required. You avoid planes climbing and descending into enroute localities. still have to lookout for others  tracking to  off track  localities. Holding a level till the other plane has (visually ) or by some other reliable means, determined to have  passed you, is a good idea. IF planes have  transponders and are in close proximity at the same level I can't see how a TWR would just not say anything and live with themselves, when the planes are on a known frequency and able to be contacted and advised of the danger. Nev

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16 minutes ago, pmccarthy said:

It’s time that CASA banned swooping. 

That would stop a lot of Magpies fun.

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What is swooping? Isn't VFR traffic in controlled airspace cleared for a level?

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I reckon there's a bit more to this than meets the eye.  It may have been that there was some friendly rivalry between companies, causing both pilots to push the power settings up a notch or 2, or 3 - just to see who had the fastest 210. Not unheard of!  :nod:


In any case, the later departing aircraft had a duty-of-care to avoid the preceding aircraft if it intended to overtake same.


Can't quite relate to the 'VFR' stuff when ATC clear an aircraft to an IFR level, (6000). ??


happy days,

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Both aircraft cleared to the same height and heading, to the same destination, one minute apart? What could go wrong.......

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