Monday, March 23, 2015

More air incidents from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau's database

Hi all,

I have previously reported on Melbourne researcher Paul Dean's use of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to obtain details of air safety incidents from both Air Services Australia (ASA) and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB.) For examples, click here, here, and here.

Paul submitted a further FOI request to the ATSB on 25 November 2014, which requested information on:

* Unusual, unknown or unidentifiable aircraft or objects
* Suspected drones/ unmanned aerial vehicles
* Meteor/fireball events
* Especially unusual weather phenomenon.

ATSB FOI response:

On 19 March 2015, the ATSB provided three PDFs of material to Paul, totalling 158 pages of documents. Paul and I have conducted an analysis of this material, which reveals there are 24 separate incidents involved, with date ranges from 2004 to 2014. Five of these events were already known to us from previous FOIs to the ASA and the ATSB. In addition, many of the others were explainable as sightings of balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles, remote controlled model aircraft and other such mundane causes. However, three are of interest to us. Details of these are provided below.

Abnormal radar returns:

At 0610hrs local time (EST) on 21 March 2014, Williamtown Department of Defence radar experienced what they referred to as "abnormal radar returns." The ATSB documentation states:

"Please note that this occurrence is a notification only and has not yet been investigated. After being issued departure instructions and a take-off clearance [redacted] take-off clearance was cancelled due to multiple unidentified system tracks that appeared on the Australian Defence Air Traffic System (ADATS) Situational Data Displays (SDD). The tracks presented as primary radar returns only, with no associated secondary surveillance radar (SSR) data. These tracks appeared at approximately 30NM south of WLM and disappeared from all SDD screens at approximately 8NM south of WLM. No further returns were observed and [redacted] was subsequently departed without further incident."


At 0956hrs local time (EST) on 26 April 2005, an airprox event occurred near Mount Sandon, New South Wales, at latitude 31deg 19mins south, and longitude 151deg 24mins east. The aircraft involved was a Beech aircraft B200C turboprop belonging to the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, which had left the ground and was cruising at an altitude of about 20,000 feet. Its SSR code was A1055.

The ATSB documentation read:

"4NM north of Mount Sandon the pilot of [redacted] thought they saw traffic just below them coming towards them. They commenced a turn to the right to avoid the object then turned back to the left to see behind and attempt to identify what it was. The pilot subsequently reported that it was a red and white object travelling very fast but it could not be identified for certain as an aircraft. There was no other known traffic to the ATS system within 12NM of the aircraft and there was no cloud. The sun at the time was high and to the rear left of the direction of travel. Air situation playback  (ASPB) confirmed there were no other Mode-C SSR returns. The area is outside of primary radar coverage. The object passed at an estimated distance of less than 500 feet below the aircraft."


At 1000hrs EST on 5 May 2012, a Boeing 737-838 aircraft was on a landing course for Sydney, at latitude 33deg 57.77mins south and longitude 151deg 11.63mins east, when the pilot reported seeing:

A large (approx. double size of a soccer ball) cylindrical shiny object passed by aircraft by our right hand side. Its colour was brown/orange. It caught my eye in the 1230 position and I watched it pass by our right hand side at our level and missed our right hand wing tip by about 5 metres. Reported to ATC (Sydney approach). It happened very quickly and I was the only known witness. It might have been a balloon but it was not round."

Paul is to congratulated for his efforts in obtaining this material, and then sharing it with us all. Further material about this latest find, may be read at Paul's blog at:

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