Qantas Pilots Avoid Near-Miss Collision

2nd Oct 2014

As if the book of annals in the world aviation has enough pages for yet another tragic incident involving planes and hundreds of casualties, a near-miss collision between two Qantas planes almost wrote their own history in 2012.

The incident happened in October 2012, or two years ago, when two Qantas aircraft, both Boeing jetliners, figured in a near-miss collision above Darwin skies.

This happened when the RAAF air traffic ground controller failed to respond to the pilot who was about to land his aircraft at Darwin International Airport. The airport has two runways which it shares with the Royal Australian Air Force's RAAF Base located next to the aerodrome.

The incident occurred when the RAAF controller failed to track the approaching aircraft, a twin-engine B717, on the radar, resulting to a transponder coding mistake which would eventually result to a low blip or the absence of it in a radar screen and a delay by 15 seconds.

The 15-second delay is a crucial period in early warning radars in ensuring aviation safety standards in all forms of aircraft.

Fortunately enough, the B717 pilots were cognizant of the looming danger ahead as seen on their own computer screen.

After they visually spotted the oncoming aircraft, a B737 and also a Qantas flight, they reduced the speed of their descent towards the airport and subsequently informed the ground controller, who, in return, advised them to delay their descent.

The pilots of the B737 were also fully aware of the imminent danger, but it was too late for them to pull out the aircraft of its ascent so they kept their climb steady towards Melbourne.

Twenty-one seconds later, after the B717 changed its course, the B737 passed 900 feet directly beneath its would-be path, or 100 feet less than the minimum requirement of 1000 feet.

According to the report released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, there would have been very little chance for a collision due to the alarms that alerted both pilots. It also added that the proactive response by both pilots prevented the two aircraft to get too close to each other.

The said RAAF controller has since been suspended from duty, albeit temporarily, awaiting investigations.