The diversion, and eventual emergency landings of two Virgin Australia and Qantas flights in June 2013 has highlighted the need to improve the weather information services used by airlines, a final report into the incident has found.
The pair of Boeing 737-800 aircraft were en route to Adelaide before being diverted to Mildura Airport due to fog, which had earlier been forecast to disperse before arrival.
With both jets running low on fuel, they were then forced into emergency landings in Mildura, but neither flight crew was aware it was also covered in fog, the ABC reported.
None of the 91 passengers and crew on board the Virgin flight or the 152 people on the Qantas flight were injured, but passengers on board the VA flight had to endure a terrifying ordeal during which they were told to "brace, brace, brace" and keep their heads down as the plane was forced to land.
According to the ABC, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report found the carriers’ weather updates lacking due to range limitations on frequencies used to transmit the Automatic Weather Information Services provided by airports.
Consequently, air traffic services would “generally not alert pilots to significant deteriorations in current weather at such airports, increasing the risks of flight crew not being aware of the changes at an appropriate time to support their decision making”, the report stated.
Airservices Australia has advised it would work with the Bureau of Meteorology on “feasible options to provide information on significant deteriorations in weather conditions to address ... limitations of the automated broadcast services”.