Air traffic controller sends airspace picture to his ex, saying flight is ‘trying to crash’

Helen Coffey
Air traffic control-related delays have increased: Getty Images

A senior air traffic controller (ATC) has been investigated after sending a picture of Australian airspace to his ex-girlfriend implying that two aircraft could collide under his watch.

The unnamed man, based in Melbourne, sent the picture along with a caption reading “Velocity474 with Brisbane trying to crash into Xanadu221 with me…”

The woman interpreted the message as meaning it would be her fault if the planes crashed into each other, reports The Age.

The incident occurred in February 2019, but Airservices Australia, the nation’s federal agency responsible for ensuring the air navigation safety of travellers, was not aware of it until September, when the man was suspended pending an investigation.

Although the investigation recently finished, Airservices Australia has not revealed the outcome due to “privacy reasons”.

According to the woman, the message was part of a pattern of disturbing behaviour displayed by her former partner. She eventually took out an apprehended violence order against him.

“As safety is always our highest priority, Airservices conducted a thorough investigation and was satisfied there was no safety risk,” a spokesperson said.

The agency argued that the aircraft were never in danger because no one person is responsible for safety – other contingencies are in place that would have prevented the jets from colliding.

The Independent has contacted Airservices Australia for further comment.

It follows a “serious incident” where two aircraft came within close range of each other in Australia.

Two Qantas jets flew within 150m of each other in August 2019, according to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).

It took place while a trainee ATC worker was on duty under the supervision of an on-the-job training instructor, according to an ATSB report released in January.

A Qantas A330 aircraft was cleared for take-off at Sydney Airport, despite the fact that a Qantas Boeing 737 was on the approach to land at the same runway.

As there wouldn’t be enough runway spacing between the two planes, the trainee controller instructed the 737 flight to perform a ‘go-around’ (circling in the air instead of landing).

However, this led to a “loss of separation between their aircraft and the departing A330”, according to the ATSB.

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