ATSB reports on separation incident at Sydney Airport

The Australian Federation of Air Pilots welcomes the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report (AO-2023-022) and is pleased to see that, in response, Airservices Australia (AsA)  has advised the ATSB that it had undertaken, and will further undertake, a range of safety actions, including:

  • “Detailed analysis of landing runway occupancy times at Sydney, and possibly other major airports, to determine expected runway occupancy times for different types of aircraft and conditions”;
  • Adding defensive controlling techniques and minimum assignable altitudes for go-around scenarios;
  • Conducting an assurance review of go-arounds at Sydney involving a second aircraft requiring controller intervention; and
  • Adding night-time go-around scenarios to compromised separation training.

However, this incident is not a new scenario and AsA should have already had these measures in place given it has knowledge of decades of experience here and overseas with such separation events.

“There have been many similar separation incidents here and overseas that have influenced the safety culture and procedures of air navigation providers over the years," according to AFAP Safety & Technical Manager Captain Marcus Diamond.

“This is one of the reasons the deficiencies at Airservices Australia are so concerning,” he said. “Our safety margins, built painstakingly over decades, have been significantly eroded in Australia.”

“The Australian Federation of Air Pilots also continues to maintain that air traffic control services remain chronically understaffed," said Captain Diamond.

“We continue to be very concerned about the resultant pressures that these air traffic service (ATS) deficiencies place on Airservices Australia's air traffic controllers, especially during periods of high workload.”

Civil Aviation Safety Regulations state that: "An ATS provider must have, at all times, enough suitably qualified and trained personnel who are able to supervise the provision of any air traffic service that it provides".

Separation occurrence involving Boeing 737, VH-VZM, and Boeing 737, VH-VZW, near Sydney Airport, NSW on 29 April 2023


Protecting Australia's Pilots