The ATSB is inquiring into a ‘Hello Sunshine’ incident on Sunday night when a Thai 777-300 dropped to a dangerously low altitude over Sunshine North while approaching Melbourne Airport at the end of a flight from Bangkok.

The Webtrak altitude of just over 300 metres  implies that the height above the roof tops  was less than 250 metres. Air traffic controllers warned the Thai pilots they were too low, causing them to climb away and make a second approach.

The ATSB describes the incident as ‘serious’ and expects to conclude its inquiry by October.

The safety investigators has also added a Virgin Australia 737-800 flight between Brisbane and Mackay on July 19 to its growing list of altitude busting inquiries, after what it describes only as an ‘incident’ rather than something more serious, when it failed to comply with airspace procedures while 67 kilometres from the regional airport.

These two notifications follow prompt ATSB preliminary reports into Tiger Airways low flying incidents will approaching Melbourne Airport on June 7, and Avalon Airport on June 30.

Tiger’s domestic Australian operations have been grounded as a threat to public safety since late on July 1, and the airline is currently making efforts to convince the Civil Aviation Safety Authority that it has both the will and capacity to obey Australia’s safety rules in order to fly once more, with the current suspension applying until August 1.

While the current flurry of low flying airliners is being dealt with in a comparatively short period of time, an alarming incident involving a Qantas Cityflyer 767-200 at Sydney Airport on October 26, 2009, remains unresolved.

In that incident, the Qantas flight from Melbourne descended to at least 700 feet without lowering its undercarriage and then performed a go around after an audible warning in the cockpit alerted the two pilots to the danger.

Read the Crikey report here and ask yourself whether or not the ATSB seems to be taking a very long time to deal with an incident that was at least as serious as the two Tiger and Thai incidents.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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