Se­cu­rity guard gave clear­ance

Otago Daily Times - - Regions - TRACEY ROXBURGH

AN ‘‘in­nocu­ous ques­tion’’ from a Jetstar pi­lot in May trig­gered a chain of events, which ul­ti­mately lead to a se­cu­rity guard giv­ing fi­nal clear­ance for a Mel­bourne­bound flight to de­part Queen­stown Air­port 13 min­utes af­ter cur­few.

This was re­vealed in Queen­stown Air­port Cor­po­ra­tion’s draft and fi­nal in­ci­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port and some in­ter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions re­lat­ing to the May 20 event in­volv­ing Flight JQ220, that have been re­leased to the

Otago Daily Times un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act.

Both re­ports were pre­pared by the air­port’s op­er­a­tions and safety gen­eral man­ager Mike Clay and air­field and com­pli­ance man­ager Chris John­son.

Flight JQ220 was sched­uled to de­part at 8.45pm. How­ever, de­ic­ing pro­ce­dures meant that was de­layed un­til 9.35pm — un­der Queen­stown Air­port’s re­source con­sent, flights have to ei­ther be wheels up or down at 10pm.

Flights are not per­mit­ted to de­part or land be­tween 10pm and 6am, un­less in an emer­gency.

That evening, the flight took off at 10.13pm.

The pi­lot asked the con­troller at Queen­stown ‘‘just to con­firm to the ring of the bell, the take­off clear­ance has to be just be­fore the hour of 10 (2200)’’.

The draft re­port said there was no ev­i­dence to sug­gest the pi­lot was ac­tively seek­ing dis­pen­sa­tion to de­part late. In fact, ‘‘the pi­lot seemed re­signed to the fact they would have to re­turn to the ter­mi­nal and de­plane’’.

How­ever, the ques­tion set off a ‘‘chain of con­ver­sa­tions’’ in which the con­troller sought guid­ance aroundg late de­par­tures and the 10pm cur­few.

‘‘Con­cerned not to make a mis­take, the con­troller sought guid­ance from QAC man­age­ment on site and ap­peared not to un­der­stand the sig­nif­i­cance of a coun­cil cur­few.’’

At the time, the duty man­ager thought the flight would ei­ther ‘‘just make or be very close to’’ the 10pm cut­off and they held ‘‘gen­uine con­cern’’ for the pas­sen­gers who had al­ready been on board for about 90 min­utes.

The con­troller con­sulted QAC’s res­cue fire ser­vice (RFS), the QAC ter­mi­nal op­er­a­tions duty man­ager and their di­rect man­ager to seek clar­i­fi­ca­tion.

All par­ties, ex­cept the duty man­ager, had ac­cess to Queen­stown Air­port’s Aero­nau­ti­cal In­for­ma­tion Pub­li­ca­tion (AIP) which set out in three places the cur­few re­stric­tions.

RFS ini­tially re­ferred the con­troller to the ter­mi­nal op­er­a­tions duty man­ager, then con­sulted the pub­li­ca­tion and in­formed the con­troller depar­ tures be­tween 10pm and 6am were not per­mit­ted ‘‘un­less an emer­gency’’.

‘‘How­ever, this oc­curred af­ter the con­troller had re­ceived ap­proval from the duty man­ager.’’

A time­line showed the ini­tial ap­proval to de­part came at 9.57pm.

At 10pm, how­ever, the time­line shows the pi­lot ad­vised the plane would re­turn to the gate due to cur­few.

The tower ad­vised per­mis­sion to de­part had been granted and when the pi­lot asked about Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity or Air Traf­fic Con­trol re­stric­tions, they were ad­vised there were ‘‘none’’.

The pi­lot then con­tacted Jetstar Op­er­a­tions in Mel­bourne con­firm­ing the flight was able to de­part — Jetstar also gave ap­proval, in do­ing so breach­ing its own in­ter­nal poli­cies.

The third and fi­nal call to the tower was an­swered by a se­cu­rity guard, who ‘‘main­tained QAC’s po­si­tion’’ the draft re­port said.

The re­port says while it was un­likely that call would have changed the out­come, ‘‘this was not the se­cu­rity guard’s de­ci­sion to make and the phone should have been handed over to the duty manger’’.

The duty man­ager had al­ready made the ‘‘in­cor­rect’’ de­ci­sion to clear the flight for take­off, how­ever, ‘‘given the cus­tomer­fac­ing na­ture of their role, it was un­der­stand­able that the pas­sen­gers were their pri­mary con­cern’’, the draft re­port said.

In gen­eral, the staff in­volved on the night did not ‘‘fully un­der­stand the sig­nif­i­cance’’ of the coun­cil’s cur­few con­di­tion in the re­source con­sent, the im­por­tance of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the cur­few re­quire­ments and the air­port’s re­la­tion­ship with the com­mu­nity, in par­tic­u­lar, air­port neigh­bours.

One of the rec­om­men­da­tions was to de­velop and im­ple­ment a pro­ce­dure to en­sure the handover of the duty phone at night to se­cu­rity only took place at the end of a shift ‘‘and not be­fore’’.


Queen­stown Air­port

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