Dozens of Jetstar passengers were involved in a terrifying near-miss after a light aircraft came within yards of the Airbus.
A report from the Australian Transport Safety Board found it was “mere chance” that an Airbus A320 Jetstar and a light aircraft did not collide in November 2020.
It was on the morning of November 28, 2020 that the Jetstar plane, with 170 people on board, arrived to land at Ballina Byron Gateway Airport in northern New South Wales.
At the same time as the Jetstar aircraft descended, a Jabiru J230D light aircraft was on a private flight from Heck Field in Queensland to Evans Head in NSW.
The Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB) report found the two planes were dangerously close to collision, with the gap between them narrowing to 600ft (183m).
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Investigation revealed that the pilot of the Jabiru had no idea the Jetstar flight was so close to him, or that the two planes were converging, until he was flying directly over the Airbus.
The flight crew of the Jetstar flight were also unaware of the Jabiru’s presence until alerted to the impending conflict by the aircraft’s collision avoidance system.
The ATSB also discovered that the pilot of the Jabiru had not set the aircraft’s transponder to broadcast altitude data.
This meant that the Jabiru did not provide the Jetstar flight crew with the information needed to avoid the potential collision.
The Jetstar flight crew could only see the plane just before the flight paths crossed.
The ATSB discovered that it was “by chance” that there was a separation between the two planes and that they did not crash.
“The ATSB also found that the most recent regulatory review of the airspace surrounding Ballina Byron Gateway Airport, and subsequent periodic reviews, did not specifically consider the risks associated with aircraft transiting through the airport. airspace without taking off or landing at the airport,” the office said. .
In response to the terrifying near-miss, Ballina Airport has since expanded its broadcast area to a radius of 15 nautical miles.
A Surveillance Flight Information Service (SFIS) from Airservices Australia also began operating in August 2021.
The SFIS provided traffic information to aircraft operating in the broadcast area on the airport’s common traffic advisory frequency.
Previously the airspace around Ballina was ‘uncontrolled’ which meant planes had to fly on ‘see and avoid principles’ – meaning they watched other traffic and monitored radios to stop collisions .
“The airspace surrounding Ballina Airport hosts a complex mix of aircraft types and operations, and there are a number of other uncontrolled airports nearby,” the report said.
“The ATSB has determined that although the available evidence does not support a conclusion that the current aircraft self-separation system in Ballina airspace is unsafe, it is possible to further reduce the risk to Security.”