Both collision aircraft TCAS-equipped: Eurocontrol

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European air traffic control agency Eurocontrol has confirmed that its records show that both aircraft involved in last night’s collision over Germany were equipped with traffic alert and collision avoidance systems (TCAS) and had altimetry systems compliant with reduced vertical separation minima (RVSM) requirements.

By coincidence the Bashkirian Airlines Tupolev Tu-154 had for the first time been verified as being RVSM-compliant by Eurocontrol when it flew over the Linz height monitoring unit just 30min before the collision. The DHL International Boeing 757-200PF was last monitored on 30 June.

In a statement, Eurocontrol says: “Based on the available information, there is currently nothing to indicate that the introduction of RVSM was in any way a factor in this accident.

“Both aircraft complied with technical and operational RVSM requirements. The height-keeping performance of both aircraft had been recently verified and shown to be well within limits.”

Information from Swiss ATC agency Skyguide suggests that the aircraft collided after the Russian belatedly obeyed an ATC instruction to descend to avoid the conflict and then struck the 757 which was obeying a TCAS ‘descend’ resolution advisory (RA) triggered by the Tupolev.

The result is that recovery and successful reading of the Tu-154 cockpit voice recorder (CVR) is now crucial to the investigation in order to determine firstly why the Russian crew was late obeying the ATC instruction and secondly why its TCAS did not successfully prevent the collision in any case.

The collision was the third major air transport collision since the widespread introduction of TCAS from 1993 onwards, but the first in which the two aircraft were TCAS-equipped.

In both the 12 November 1996 collision near Delhi of a Saudi Arabian Airlines Boeing 747 and a Kazakh Ilyushin Il-76; and the 13 September 1997 collision of a Luftwaffe Tu-154 and a US Air Force Lockheed C-141 Starlifter, neither aircraft were TCAS-equipped.