The ATSB is continuing its investigation into a separation issue between two aircraft at Ballina.
The ATSB is continuing its investigation into a separation issue between two aircraft at Ballina.

How two planes came within 600 feet of each other at Ballina

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is continuing to investigate how a private Jabiru and a Jetstar Airbus A320 came within 600 feet of each other at Ballina on November 28 last year.

The ATSB has released a preliminary report into the incident which occurred on November 28, 2020.

“The Jetstar Airbus A320, with seven crew and 163 passengers on board, was on approach to land at Ballina Byron Gateway Airport, having operated a scheduled service from Melbourne,” the ATSB said in its report.

“The Jabiru J230D aircraft, with a pilot and a passenger on board, was conducting a private visual flight rules flight from Heck Field in Queensland to Evans Head.”

The ATSB is continuing its investigation into a separation issue between two aircraft at Ballina.
The ATSB is continuing its investigation into a separation issue between two aircraft at Ballina.

Aircraft flying into the Ballina and Evans Head areas must broadcast their position on a common air traffic advisory frequency, which is relayed by a certified radio operator at Ballina to assist pilots with decision-making.

While the Jetstar flight was tracking toward Ballina, its crew received a traffic collision avoidance system alert for an unidentified aircraft at an unspecified altitude.

The Jetstar crew tried to visually spot the other plane, but they were not successful and the collision avoidance alert escalated.

Later analysis of data found the route of the A320 and Jabiru intersected about 12 nautical miles southwest of the airport.

They were vertically separated by about 600 feet.

“The flight crew of the A320 sighted the Jabiru just prior to passing below the aircraft, the preliminary report notes,” the ATSB said.

“The pilot of the Jabiru sighted the A320 shortly after passing above it.

“Both the pilot of the Jabiru and the A320 flight crew observed no lateral separation between the two aircraft.”

The ATSB’s ongoing investigation will see them examine airspace density levels, airspace suitability, flight crew actions, future Ballina airspace plans and other factors, ATSB director of transport safety Stuart Macleod said.

Mr Macleod said the preliminary report does not include “any safety findings or analysis” which are expected to come in the final report.

“However, should a critical safety issue be identified during the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate and timely safety action can be taken,” he said.

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