Two Boeing 737 aircraft landed below minima due to fog at Mildura Airport, Australia, according to an ATSB report.
On 18 June 2013, two Boeing 737 aircraft, VH-YIR operated by Virgin Australia as Velocity 1384 and VH-VYK operated by Qantas Airways as Qantas 735, were on scheduled flights to Adelaide, South Australia.
On nearing Adelaide, the forecast improvement in weather conditions had not occurred and as a result, both aircraft commenced a diversion to Mildura, Victoria. Upon arrival at Mildura, the actual weather conditions were significantly different to those forecast, in particular with visibility reduced in fog.
The flight crew of Qantas 735 conducted an instrument approach and landed below minima. The flight crew of Velocity 1384 also conducted an instrument approach and landed below minima in fog and with fuel below the fixed reserve.
The ATSB found that the weather deterioration at Adelaide did not appear on the forecast when both aircraft departed their respective ports and furthermore the forecast duration of the fog in the later, amended forecast showed a clearance time earlier than actually occurred. This meant that Qantas 735 continued to Adelaide with the expectation that the fog would clear prior to their arrival, which did not occur. It also influenced the decision making of the Virgin Australia flight watch personnel, who did not pass this weather to the flight crew of Velocity 1384.
Pilots are reminded of their responsibility for collecting all relevant information to support inflight decision making. This includes weather and operational information for the destination, which should be considered prior to a decision point or point of no return.
It is important that pilots understand what will be provided under Airservices’ provision of flight information service and that they are also able to request weather and operational information from air traffic control. In addition, pilots should note the potential benefits of informing the controller of a non-normal situation. These include increased monitoring and support as required and the potential to reduce pilot workload in stressful situations.