Shocking details of near-miss Qantas plane crash

An explosive report has revealed the details of a potentially fatal blunder from air traffic control that almost caused two Qantas planes to crash head-on.

A preliminary report from the transport safety body has found it was a trainee traffic controller's blunder that sent the two planes on a collision course.

The Melbourne-bound A330 was given the green light for takeoff as the Boeing 737 that departed from Brisbane was seconds from landing, the report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) found.

The two Qantas planes were sent on a collision course by air traffic control. Picture: Sydney Airport
The two Qantas planes were sent on a collision course by air traffic control. Picture: Sydney Airport

The mishap could have been fatal - with each plane having capacity to hold hundreds of passengers.

The ATSB's preliminary report reveals that the A330 had been cleared by air traffic control to take off from Sydney Airport runway 34 at the same time the 737 was about to land on the same runway.

 

The A330 was told to take off when the Boeing 737 was seconds from landing. Photo: AP Photo/Rick Rycroft
The A330 was told to take off when the Boeing 737 was seconds from landing. Photo: AP Photo/Rick Rycroft

There was just 152 metres between the planes, with the Boeing 737 just seconds from landing as the A330 became airborne.

The report details that "an otherwise experienced controller" who was a trainee under supervision had given the go-ahead.

Realising that the two planes were on a collision course, the air traffic controller instructed the 737 to conduct a "go around" to the right - an order which placed the planes dangerously close to one another.

The 737 was told to turn to the right at the same time as the A330, leaving metres between them. Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images
The 737 was told to turn to the right at the same time as the A330, leaving metres between them. Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images

The mishap caused a crash alert to be sent to traffic control, prompting controllers to order the 737 to climb to 3,000 ft.

The A330 captain looked out the cockpit and saw the 737 metres above and radioed to air traffic control saying "that was very close," according to the report.

Investigations into the incident are continuing. ATSB Director Transport Safety Dr Stuart Godley said investigations will focus on air traffic control procedures and training and the air traffic controller and flight crew's actions.

A final report into the incident is set to be released in coming months.


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