Two planes involved in near collision over Mildura in 2009

Melbourne, Nov.25 (ANI): Two passenger planes with 443 people on board were involved in a near miss over the outskirts of Mildura outskirts last year after an air traffic controller failed to notice they were on a collision course.

An investigation carried out by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigation revealed Wednesday that a Qantas 737 with 143 passengers and seven crew aboard, flying from Sydney to Adelaide, the other an Emirates Boeing 777 carrying 276 passengers and 17 crew, flying from Melbourne to Singapore were discovered to be on collision course on September 3 last year.

An air traffic controller cleared both planes to cruise at 30,000 feet, but their flight paths meant they would cross in the same piece of sky 60 kilometres southeast of Mildura in Victoria.

The drama began when the collision course went undetected for more than 17 minutes. A "conflict alert" flashed up on the air traffic controller's radar screen, the planes less than 19 kilometres apart and closing fast. As the seconds ticked away, the air traffic controller tried to make contact with the Emirates pilots three times, to no avail.

A minute after the alert, the gap had halved to 9.1 kilometres - breaching the allowable minimum space between the aircraft - and he radioed the Qantas pilots to "turn right", which they did.

Seconds later, he ordered the Qantas pilots to climb 1000 feet, and the gap had shrunk to 6.7 kilometres before the Qantas pilots confirmed they were flying higher, and the collision was averted.

A minute later, the air traffic controller was stood down. (ANI)

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