Sunday, February 07, 2016

Two Qantas jets in 'near-miss' at Melbourne airport

Two Qantas jets have been involved in a "near miss" with a third plane at Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport, prompting serious concerns over safety procedures followed by air control staff.

A passenger on-board one of the Qantas planes filmed the July 5 incident, which senator Nick Xenophon describes as a "potential disaster", with pilots given less than 20 seconds to react.

The video footage shows the lights of another plane approaching from the left, before disappearing under the wing and fuselage.

Both Qantas jets were forced to abandon their landings after an Emirates passenger plane bound for Singapore was on the runway preparing for take-off.

The two Qantas planes were forced to perform "double go around" manoeuvres, with one jet given permission to fly across the air terminal at an unsafe altitude.

An air traffic controller trainee, a training instructor and a tower coordinator were manning the control tower at the time. The trainee was serving their fourth shift in the control tower and was forced to call in a supervisor.

Senator Xenophon said he had been contacted by air traffic controllers and pilots after the incident, expressing deep concern over what had happened.

Air turbulence created by the departing Emirates jet had made both Qantas passenger planes vulnerable to flight difficulties, Senator Xenophon said.

Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport's twin intersecting runways have also been highlighted as a cause for concern.

Most international airports have multiple runways that sit parallel to one another.

"This was a near miss," said Senator Xenophon.

"Two aircraft nearly collided in air, because of a series of systemic failures."

Senator Xenophon also criticised commercial pressure on airports to optimise take-offs and landings, which put pressure on air traffic controllers and congested flight paths.

Airservices Australia denied the incident had put passenger safety at risk.

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