United 777 And Virgin Australia ATR Lose Separation At Sydney

A United Airlines Boeing 777 lost separation with a Virgin Australia ATR-72 last week. Thankfully nothing serious came of the incident. However, the ATSB has opened an investigation into the events of last week’s incident.

Virgin Australia, United Airlines, Sydney Separation
A Virgin Australia ATr-72 last week lost separation with a United Airlines Boeing 777. Photo: Duan Zhu via Wikimedia

In August last year, Simple Flying reported that two Qantas aircraft lost separation departing from Sydney Airport. It seems that a similar incident has taken place. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has launched an investigation into this latest incident which occurred on the 22nd of January. Involved was an Untied Airlines Boeing 777, and a Virgin Australia ATR-72. Both aircraft were departing from parallel runways at Sydney Airport when the incident occurred.

What happened?

This latest loss of separation happened on the 22nd of January. According to the ATSB’s initial summary, the incident has been rated as serious. However, as the incident is still in the evidence collection phase, the agency expects its report to be finished in Q3 of 2020.

The incident occurred at 14:23 AEST or around 03:23 UTC. Both the United aircraft and the Virgin Australia aircraft were departing from the airport’s parallel 34 runways. United Airlines flight 870 was departing from runway 34L bound for San Francisco. It was operated by a three-year-old Boeing 777 registered as N2333U.

Virgin Australia, United Airlines, Sydney Separation
Both aircraft were departing from Sydney Airport. Image: FlightRadar24.com

Meanwhile, the Virgin Australia flight, VA1153, was departing from Sydney’s 34R runway, bound for Tamworth. The aircraft, VH-FVQ, is a seven-year-old ATR-72. According to the ATSB, neither aircraft sustained damage.

Following the loss of separation, both aircraft continued on with their planned flights, reaching their intended destinations. UA870 landed in San Francisco at 08:36. Meanwhile, VA1153 landed in Tamworth at 15:14.

Flight Global reports that separation between the two aircraft was lost due to the Boeing 777 turning to the right during its initial climb. The ATSB has contacted both carriers in order to obtain relevant information about the incident.

Not the first loss of separation

Last week’s incident is not the first loss of separation that has occurred involving Sydney’s parallel 34 runways. In August last year, two Qantas aircraft also lost separation climbing out of Sydney’s runway 34R.

According to the ATSB’s preliminary report into that incident, the two aircraft came within 796 meters laterally and 152 meters vertically of each other. Thankfully a collision was avoided, however, like last week’s incident it was rated as serious.

Virgin Australia, United Airlines, Sydney Separation
Thankfully a collision was avoided in both instances. Photo: United Airlines

However, unlike last week’s incident, the previous occurrence only involved one runway. An Airbus A330 departed while a Boeing 737 went around, with both aircraft turning towards the right. The investigation into this incident is also due out later in 2020. Thankfully, in both incidents, both aircraft were unaffected by the loss of separation and continued on with their flights.

Were you on one of the flights that lost separation? What do you make of the two incidents? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.