The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has published a report revealing the vast majority of incidents when aircraft under air traffic control come closer than a minimum separation distance present little or no risk of collision.
In the technical jargon of the ATSB this is referred to as ‘loss of separation’ or LOS.
However, the report found that more could be done to improve safety.
It showed that Australia had one of the lowest loss-of-separation occurrence rates, attributable to civilian air traffic control, in the world - na LOS between aircraft under air traffic control happening on average once every three days.
The report found that in almost 90 per cent of LOS occurrences there was no or low risk of aircraft colliding. However, Australia had about six LOS occurrences each year that represented an elevated safety risk.
“A LOS does not normally indicate that there was a near-collision between aircraft. There have been no midair collisions in Australia involving aircraft being provided with a separation service by air traffic control,” the report said.
It also revealed that half of all LOS occurrences were attributable to air traffic controller actions, while the other half resulted from pilot actions.
The ATSB said it considers more can be done to learn from LOS occurrences attributable to pilot actions in civil airspace.
It has issued safety recommendations to the Department of Defence and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to address the safety issues identified in the report.
The ATSB said the release of its report coincides with the release of two other ATSB investigation reports into separate incidents (one near Ceduna, South Australia and the other about 900 kilometres north-west of Karratha, Western Australia) that involved losses of separation between passenger aircraft under air traffic control. All three reports are available on the ATSB website at www.atsb.gov.au
Edition 384, 22 October 2013