Saturday, May 6, 2017

ATSB Also Releases Final Report into Separation Issue Involving QantasLink Dash-8-Q400 VH-QOV and RACQ LifeFlight Kawasaki BK117 B-2 Helicopter VH-EHQ at Bundaberg Airport in November 2016

Meanwhile, in our referring Blog post about the undershoot incident at Theodore Airport - link HERE - we reported that the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) was also investigating a 'separation issue' between a QantasLink Dash-8-Q400 VH-QOV and an unknown helicopter near Bundaberg Airport on Saturday 26 November 2016.

File photo taken by Micah S  ©

Well, the ATSB has also recently released its final report into this incident with the 'unknown' helicopter identified as locally-based RACQ LifeFlight Kawasaki BK117 B-2 helicopter VH-EHQ.

VH-QOV was operating scheduled passenger flight QF2320 from Brisbane and was descending into Bundaberg Airport when, at about the same time, VH-EHQ was being prepared to depart Bundaberg Airport on a task to conduct a visual flight rules (VFR) flight to search for potential wreckage from a trawler missing off the Queensland coast.

Bundaberg Airport is a non-controlled airport with a common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF). A CTAF is a designated frequency on which pilots make positional broadcasts when operating in the vicinity of a non-controlled aerodrome.

The report found that:  "The flight crew of VH-QOV made broadcasts on the CTAF at 27 NM, 10 NM and 5 NM while it was on approach to Bundaberg Airport.  No responses from other aircraft were heard.

"While VH-QOV was on final approach, VH-EHQ taxied for departure from a position to the East of Runway 32. The helicopter taxied a short distance, took off and once airborne commenced a left turn tracking initially towards Hervey Bay.

"During VH-EHQ’s departure, the flight crew of VH-QOV received a traffic advisory (TA) from their aircraft’s traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS).  On receipt of the TA, the flight crew of VH-QOV attempted to sight the traffic causing the alert.  After a few seconds, they identified a helicopter, later determined to be VH-EHQ, in their 2 o’clock position around 1.5 NM, and around 1,000 ft below their aircraft. The helicopter was clear of their projected flight path and accordingly the flight crew continued the approach, landing without further incident.

"After landing, the flight crew of VH-QOV made two broadcasts on the CTAF to identify the helicopter. These were unsuccessful and they requested, on area frequency, if air traffic control knew the identity of the helicopter. The pilot of VH-EHQ heard this exchange and subsequently identified themselves also advising they had not heard the earlier broadcasts made by the flight crew of VH-QOV."

This incident highlights the fundamental importance of effective communication, particularly during operations at a non-controlled aerodrome. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has produced several publications and resources that provide important safety advice related to operations in the vicinity of non-controlled aerodromes.

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