Blog readers will recall that Melbourne based researcher, Paul Dean and I, recently published a full report on the near-miss between a Skippers Aviation aircraft and an "unknown object" at 9.13am local time on 19 March 2014, near Perth international airport (click here for the full technical report.)
The crew of that aircraft described the "unknown object" as a green coloured cylinder, that passed close by the aircraft, still going upwards from the aircraft's altitude of around 4,000 feet. The "unknown" had no observable wings; fins, or obvious method of propulsion.
Was it a rocket?
Paul Dean speculated that one possible explanation was that the "unknown" was a rocket fired from the ground. However, there was no way, on the available information, to substantiate this speculation.
That has now changed.
Air Services Australia incident report:
The recent Air Services Australia (ASA) response to Paul's Freedom of Information request (click here for details) contained thirteen incidents.
One of these, ATS-0118570, occurred at 1.20 zulu time, i.e. 9.20am local time on 4 January 2013. The ASA summary reads:
"XKI (DH8C) reported a foreign object of approximate size (1 metre) within close proximity (50ft) of the aircraft causing them to level out briefly as the object passed left hand side. The rocket like object (shaft) was observed to be attached to a parachute. Pilot reported observation at 6800 ft."
Where did this occur?
The ASA summary merely says Perth, TMA. TMA stands for Terminal Maneouvering Area or in other words near to Perth international airport. Who operates aircraft, registration VH-XKI? Skippers Aviation!
The similarities between the 2013 and 2014 incidents are obvious to me. It would be reasonable, based on the information we now have on these two incidents, to suggest that the 2013 incident was an observation at 6,800 feet, of a rocket, fired from the ground, on its way back to earth, attached to a parachute, and that the observation of 2014, at about 4,000 feet, was that of a rocket, fired from the ground, still going upwards.
2014 Australian Transport Safety Bureau report:
Why wouldn't the report released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau ( click here to read it) on the 2014 event not have mentioned the so similar 2013 event? Perhaps it was because the 2013 event was reported only to Air Services Australia, and the 2014 event was reported by the aircrew directly to the ATSB? This seems a reasonable suggestion, to me. However, you would think that someone at Skippers Aviation would have known about both incidents?
Well, now. Is a rocket fired from the ground ,the solution to the 19 March 2014 near-miss?