Australian aviation safety board slams Emirates for 'recurrence' of non-compliance with air traffic control instructions

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By Leithen Francis in Singapore

A spate of incidents in which Emirates aircraft failed to comply with Australian air traffic control has caught the attention of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB). “An examination of the ATSB database found 20 incidents of non-compliance with air traffic control instructions or procedures by the operator over the six-month period to December 2005,” the ATSB says, adding that three of these were reported on the same day.

The ATSB says an analysis shows “recurrence of two events in particular”: non-compliance with altitude restrictions while on standard arrival routes and non-compliance with operating restrictions for taxiway Alpha 4 at Sydney airport.

The ATSB also discovered that Emirates management was unaware of the incidents because air navigation services provider Airservices Australia failed to “forward safety-related information to the operator”.

Airservices Australia’s failure to inform Emirates of the problem stemmed from “a change in staff roles” at the air traffic services provider, says the ATSB. The bureau says it sent a notification of non-compliance to Emirates that resulted in the airline “amending the relevant route manual supplement [RMS] for Sydney airport to include more comprehensive information on taxiway restrictions”.

A notice was also sent to Emirates flightcrew advising them to “take precautions when clearing flight plan discontinuities from the flight management system when on standard arrival routes or on standard departures”. The notice also advised crews to “resolve any ambiguity with ATC regarding clearances and operating restrictions”.

Emirates is one of the largest operators into Australia with flights to Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. It mostly operates to Australia from Dubai, but also has flights to Australia from Singapore and New Zealand.

Emirates says the ATSB alerted it “to a few instances, over a period of six months in 2005, where our flights did not comply with certain air traffic control procedures. Immediate action was taken to brief our flightcrew and amend the relevant route manual supplements accordingly.” It adds: “Passenger safety has always been our top priority and at no time was this compromised.”