'Inaccurate Weather' Forecast to Blame for Virgin Australia Emergency Landing in 2013

31st May 2016

A Virgin Australia plane carrying 85 passengers and six crew members at the time was forced to make a last-ditch emergency landing on a fog-bound Mildura Airport on 18th June, 2013, air safety investigators have concluded.

In their report, the investigators from the Australian Safety Transport Bureau (ASTB) found out that weather forecast for that day was "inaccurate" and as a result, the pilots were unaware of the true weather conditions in Adelaide.

Furthermore, according to an updated forecast, the fog in Adelaide was supposed to lift sooner than it actually did. This made the Qantas jet flying on to Adelaide, as the pilot and the crew believed the fog would clear by the time they reached the city.

When the Virgin Australia and Qantas finally reached Mildura, the weather was "significantly worse" than predicted and both planes were forced to land in less than ideal conditions.

The Boeing 787-800 had been diverted earlier from landing at the airport in Adelaide due to the fog there. Although there was fog at the Mildura as well, the plane was nearly out of fuel and the pilot, after circling once above the airport, decided to make the attempt, as it didn't have enough fuel to try another airport.

Virgin Australia's B787-800 wasn't the only plane above the airport that day. Another plane, this one from Qantas Airways, was also circling the airport. The pilot of this Boeing 737, who was carrying 152 people from Adelaide to Sydney, hailed his colleague, saying he will try to land at Mildura "due to fuel".

Responding, the Virgin Australia pilot said they are "in the same boat" and decided to let the other plane land first. After Qantas plane was successful, the Virgin plane made a "missed approach" to confirm that they are aligned with the runway. The pilot then told the crew to prepare for an emergency landing and told the passengers via com to "brace". Finally, the plane landed safely at the airport runway.

Commenting on this incident, the Bureau of Meteorology said it has made "various system changes" after it. On the other side, Airservices Australia manager for country's airspace said it will look for "feasible options" to provide better and more complete information regarding weather deteriorations.