An investigation is under way into a hair-raising near-miss in which an Auckland-bound Air Asia flight came dangerously close to a packed Jetstar flight as it went to land on the Gold Coast.
The Courier-Mail has been told the Jetstar flight took evasive action after the Air Asia flight strayed towards its flight path.
The aircraft came within 152m of each other, causing alarms to sound in both cockpits. The Jetstar pilots put their aircraft into a climb to re-establish a safe distance between the two planes. The minimum allowed vertical separation for major passenger aircraft in Australia is 305m.
The incident happened about 6km off the coast north of Coolangatta Airport on the Gold Coast just before noon on Thursday last week. A Jetstar spokesman said the pilots of their A320 aircraft had received clearance from air traffic control to descend into the Gold Coast. “During descent, the aircraft warning system alerted our pilots to another aircraft approaching our approved flight path,” he said. “Our pilots took corrective action to restore the safe distance between the two aircraft.
“The flight continued on to the Gold Coast and landed without further incident. It’s likely that most passengers would not have been aware of the incident.” A spokeswoman for the Malaysian-based budget airline Air Asia said: “We are unable to comment on the matter at the moment as it is still under investigation.”
The Jetstar Airbus, which can carry up to 180 passengers, was approaching the airport from the north when the incident happened. The Air Asia Airbus, which is an A330 and can carry a maximum of about 400 passengers, was taking off, bound for New Zealand. The aircraft were not on a direct collision course, but sources said the near-miss was “too close for comfort”.
The closeness of the aircraft set off the traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) in each aircraft – technology that automatically detects aircraft that have breached minimum separation standards – and triggered a “resolution advisory”, or alert that advises the pilots which action to take.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has confirmed on its website that it is investigating, with a final report not due to be completed until July next year.