January 29, 2024 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Lessons Learned: The Importance of Radio Transmissions


The pilot of a Piper Cherokee which took off over a Saab 340 that was backtracking on the same runway used non-standard radio phraseology.

The pilot who used the non-standard radio phraseology had missed a transmission from the larger aircraft, an ATSB (Australian Transport Safety Bureau) investigation report details.

The Piper pilot began their take-off from runway 34 at Shellharbour, NSW, as part of a solo navigational training exercise on July 6, 2023.

At the same time, a Saab 340 regional airliner was backtracking along the same runway, having just landed on a scheduled passenger service from Brisbane.

As the crew of the Saab saw the Piper conducting its take-off roll towards them, they attempted to contact the Piper pilot on the radio, but were unable to make contact, and veered their aircraft to the edge of the runway.

When the pilot of the Piper saw the Saab, they elected to continue the take-off, passing over the left wing of the Saab at approximately 150 ft above ground level.

“The Piper pilot had incorrectly assumed the Saab would be using the taxiway after landing, and that the runway was clear,” ATSB Manager Transport Safety Derek Hoffmeister said.

“They were unaware that a weight restriction on the taxiway meant the Saab had to use the runway to backtrack, and so when they saw the Saab begin to turn at the end of its landing, they turned their attention to other aircraft in the circuit.”

The ATSB’s investigation found the Piper pilot used non-standard radio phraseology when turning onto runway 34, and then didn’t hear the Saab crew re-state their intention to backtrack on the runway.

“Additionally, the investigation determined that once the Piper pilot saw the Saab, it would have almost certainly been possible for them to reject the take-off,” Mr Hoffmeister said.

“Despite this, they elected to continue the take-off from an occupied runway.”

Mr. Hoffmeister said the incident was another reminder of the need for pilots to make clear radio broadcasts, and pay attention to transmissions being made by other pilots, in particular at a non-towered airport like Shellharbour.

“At a non-towered airport, pilots are responsible for maintaining separation between one another,” he said.

“One of the safety concerns highlighted by the ATSB’s SafetyWatch initiative is reducing the collision risk around non-towered aerodromes, and pilots are encouraged to regularly review this and other guidance on this subject.”

Read the report: Runway incursion involving a Piper PA-28, VH-SFA, and SAAB 340, VH-VED, at Shellharbour Airport, New South Wales, on 6 July 2023.

Content/source credit: ATSB, “Piper Cherokee’s take-off over backtracking Saab highlights the importance of radio use at non-towered airports,” published December 19, 2023.

Accident, Investigations
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