A Jetstar crew managed to avert a major disaster at Adelaide airport when the pilot of a second plane misheard instructions and crossed its path as it was coming in to land, a report reveals.
The Australian Safety Transport Bureau said an Alliance Airlines flight had landed at the airport with 53 people on board when its pilot taxied onto the tarmac and into the path of an incoming Jetstar A320, believed to be carrying more than 150 passengers.
The Jetstar plane was a mere 30 seconds from colliding with the Alliance Fokker 50 before its crew took evasive action. There were no injuries reported in the August 17 incident.
In its investigation, the bureau found miscommunication between the Alliance pilots and the airport's surface movement controller (SMC) contributed to the incident.
This is partly because words were "clipped" from the start of transmissions, a known problem air traffic controllers had become desensitised to, the bureau said.
It found Alliance pilots misheard instructions from air traffic control to "hold short" of the runway as the Jetstar plane approached.
They were told: "Hold short of runway 23, I've got you going to 50 golf".
But the Alliance crew heard: "Runway 23, I've got you going to 50 golf".
The SMC thought the word "hold" had been clipped when the Alliance crew repeated the instructions back, the bureau said.
The Alliance crew thought they had been given clearance to taxi across runway 23, although the bureau said the check captain saw the Jetstar flight approaching and noted it looked closer than expected, but the captain didn't see it.
"The flight crew of [Alliance Airlines] thought they were cleared to cross the runway probably because of the bay allocation at the end of the hold short instruction," the report said.
"An effective sighting of the aircraft on final approach may have led them to query their understood instruction to cross the runway."
The Jetstar plane was 30 seconds from touchdown when its crew spotted the Alliance plane crossing the runway and took evasive action.
The Jetstar pilots performed a "go-around" to avoid the smaller plane, aborting its landing attempt and climbing upward.
The bureau commended the Jetstar pilots for "preventing a potentially more serious incident occurring".
It also said the smaller plane's pilots could have queried their instructions to cross the runway when they saw the larger plane approaching for landing.
The investigation found several steps would have helped prevent the incident, including pilots and air traffic control using correct terminology and seeking clarification when instructions were not fully heard, and the installation of stop bars to deter aircraft from entering an active runway.