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A320 / B738, vicinity Launceston Australia, 2008
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On 1 May 2008 an Airbus A320-200 being operated by JetStar on a scheduled passenger flight from Melbourne to Launceston, Tasmania was making a missed approach from runway 32L when it came into close proximity in night Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) with a Boeing 737-800 being operated by Virgin Blue and also inbound to Launceston from Melbourne which was manoeuvring about 5nm north west of the airport after carrying out a similar missed approach.. Minimum separation was 3nm at the same altitude and the situation was fully resolved by the A320 climbing to 4000 feet.
An Investigation was carried out by the ATSB. It was established that the incident took place in Class ‘G’ airspace outside the hours of ATC service at Launceston, which had closed half an hour earlier. Such operations are governed by Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) procedures which require flight crew of radio-equipped aircraft to communicate by making prescribed broadcasts. Recorded ATS data indicated that the radio broadcasts by both flight crews were in accordance with the published requirements.
The forecast weather for Launceston indicated the likelihood of fog at the time of arrival and a departing aircraft had reported the base of the overcast as 200 feet agl. Because of this, the flights involved in the incident decided to carry out an ILS approach to Runway 32L and, given that the applicable DH for the procedure was similar to the reported cloud base, both crews knew that the probability of a go around was relatively high.
The 737 crew conducted their ILS approach which ended in a go around for which the procedure was to climb ahead 3,100 feet. When asked by the A320 crew to advise of their intended manoeuvring altitude, the 737 crew advised that they would maintain 3,100 feet, but continue on the missed approach track ‘... for another 10 miles just to keep us clear of you...’. The A320 crew acknowledged these intentions and advised that, if they carried out a go around, they would climb to 3,100 feet and arrange further separation.