Two passenger jets, one from Emirates and one from Qantas, narrowly avoided colliding over rural Australia last year after an air traffic controller cleared both planes to fly at the same level, Australian media has reported.
According to Fairfax media, an Emirates Boeing 777 flying from Melbourne to Singapore and a Qantas 737 flying from Sydney to Adelaide almost collided above the Victorian town of Mildura after an air traffic controller cleared both planes to fly at 30,000 feet.
The planes, carrying a combined 443 people, were on a collision course that went undetected for more than 17 minutes, according to an Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigation launched into the incident.
A report on the investigation said the planes were less than 19 kilometres apart and closing fast. The air traffic controller then attempted to contact with the Emirates pilots three times, without success, but when the gap had halved to 9.1 kilometres, he radioed the Qantas pilots to turn right and climb 1000 feet, which they did.
The air traffic controller was stood down a minute after the incident, on September 3 last year.
An aerospace engineer told Fairfax Media that, at a pace of 10 kilometres per minute, the planes were only about 40 seconds from hitting had evasive action not been taken.