RAAF personnel have responded to an emergency situation in the airspace over south-east Queensland.

No. 452 Squadron Air Traffic Control (ATC) personnel based at RAAF Base Amberley were requested to provide assistance by Brisbane Centre advising that an “uncertainty phase” had been declared on a civilian aircraft because of loss in communications.

The aircraft was going from Cairns to Redcliff Airport.

Commanding Officer No. 452 Squadron Wing Commander Andy Hoare said the response was timely and efficient.

“Personnel identified the aircraft on their radar displays, conducted communications checks and assisted with the coordination of a joint response, placing military and civilian military contractor aircraft on standby to assist,” Wing Commander Hoare said. 

“The response was calm and methodical as I would expect.” 

RAAF air traffic controllers provide air-traffic services that assist aircraft and airfield users to safely and efficiently use the airfield and the airspace.

With specialist skillsets and aptitude, ATC personnel have a good sense of spatial awareness and have the ability to make decisions in high-pressure situations, applying procedures in a real-time environment.

Our ATC operators are highly skilled and train for a range of scenarios including emergency situations.

ATC recruits undergo aptitude testing through the recruitment process, and develop these skills during training. 

Wing Commander Hoare said ATC personnel were trained to operate in tower and approach environments, which provide a specific service delivery that are both vital in support of capability.

“When ATC personnel are controlling in the tower, they are centred on visually acquiring aircraft. The approach environment is focused on using the radar display to ensure aircraft are in a safe environment with respect to airspace, other aircraft and terrain,” Wing Commander Hoare said.

“Operators in the approach environment provided critical information, data, monitoring and airspace-management capability support to the ‘uncertainty phase’ that was called on the civilian aircraft.” 

A Royal Flying Doctor Service King Air aircraft maintained visual contact and supported communications during the operation and as part of the standby response.

An E-7A Wedgetail from No. 2 Squadron based at RAAF Base Williamtown was engaged should assistance had been required.  

Wing Commander Hoare said on confirmation from Brisbane Centre that communication had resumed with the civilian aircraft, ATC continued to monitor the situation until the pilot landed the aircraft safely at Coolangatta Airport. 

“Our ATC operators are highly skilled and train for a range of scenarios including emergency situations,” he said. 

“Their actions contributed to the joint effort, in collaboration with No. 2 Squadron and in partnership with a range of civilian services, ensuring the safety of the civilian pilot and all involved in the mission.”