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An aviation researcher, writer, aviation participant, pilot & agricultural researcher. Author of over 35 scientific publications world wide.

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Airservices [#ASA] Angus Houston fires up “a discrepancy”

Airservices [#ASA] Angus Houston fires up “a discrepancy”

The blame game continues, when the “Quango’s” do not want to be caught out in what they say and what gives a truly effective and ultimately safe outcome for aviation.

The recent articles in the Australian take us to the long-term concerns of Dick Smith, which in October 2014 were starting to come to the surface again. This is to the point where The Australian has had a senior air traffic controller in Australia from the US, to give increased credibility to the arguments.

#ASA says that #CASA “approved” the current situation. In fact the individual who did the report for #CASA now says that he regrets giving that advice.

A question that I ask, is, are there other examples where there have been issues.

Of course, the most recent incident, where there is now a death involved [#PelAir] at Norfolk Island in 2008. The Unicom operator at Norfolk Island was prevented from passing on information on deteriorating weather conditions, despite having information and suitable equipment to contact the incoming flight.

The flight ends up in 3m seas, with all six individuals at night and no person aware of the situation. Just lucky a rescue person from the Island was aware, put to sea in a life-boat and 90-minutes later had all six in the life-boat.

The investigation was flawed [CTB report into ATSB]
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Air controllers, fire crews: Angus Houston gave wrong impression

Houston ‘gave wrong impression’

Angus Houston: ‘Our firefighters are not trained in that way’. Source: News Corp Australia

Airservices Australia chairman Angus Houston gave the ­impression fire crews employed by his body at regional airports would not be lawfully ­allowed to provide potentially life-saving weather and air traffic ­information to ­pilots, when an ­avenue is available for them to do so.

In another discrepancy, Airservices’ media unit said management at Ballina airport in northern NSW had not discussed with ­Airservices whether the fire and rescue crew stationed there could perform the radio advice function, when airport manager Neil Weatherson did canvass such an option.

Airservices has also claimed it and the Bureau of Meteorology provide a “comprehensive” weather service to pilots because airports without air traffic controllers have automated weather stations, a statement aviation experts ­describe as ludicrous.

Airservices is also under pressure over a $6 million air navigation system it deployed in Tasmania, which press releases at the time said would provide radar-style surveillance aircraft separation almost down to the ground, when in practice it does not.

There are three airports which do not have control towers manned by air traffic controllers, but where Airservices has a fire and rescue base: Ballina, Newman in Western Australia, and Gladstone in Queensland.

Airservices, the government-owned agency which runs the ­nation’s air traffic control system, has been in lockstep with the air traffic controllers union in opposing proposals for its fire and rescue staff to man the Unicom radio to provide air traffic and weather information to pilots, as their counterparts do at many regional US airports.

In an interview with The Australian last month, Sir Angus said: “The regulator (the Civil Aviation Safety Authority) has decided that, if anybody is to provide air traffic information to pilots in a ­regional context, they must be suitably qualified people. Our firefighters are not trained in that way.”

While CASA regulations only allow individuals who have held an air traffic controllers’ licence within the past 10 years to provide weather and air traffic information over the radio to pilots, CASA can, on application, provide exemptions to allow others to do so.

Asked specifically if Airservices could apply for its firefighters at Ballina to give out air traffic and weather information, CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said it could.

“In the case of a Unicom this regulatory support would include an appropriate legal instrument needed to enable basic information on air traffic to be provided by the Unicom operator to pilots,” he said.

An Airservices spokeswoman said “the airport operator (is not) seeking to introduce a Unicom radio service at Ballina”.

Ballina Byron Gateway Airport manager Neil Weatherson, at a meeting last month which included fire station manager Wayne Morrison, told The Australian he was exploring with Airservices whether fire crew could man the Unicom. Only when it became clear Airservices was not going to budge did he surrender on that front and move to hire retired air traffic controllers for the purpose.

Airservices said “a comprehensive suite of weather information services is available to all pilots … this includes automated weather services” which convert weather readings to voice for pilots.

But a US expert in air traffic control who has spent time in ­Australia, Jeff Griffith, said the ­automated service could only relay information from the precise point the device was located, not talk about weather dangers visible many kilometres away.

In 2005, 15 people died when an aircraft crashed into a mountain while approaching a small airport at Lockhart River in Cape York. Aviation experts say the tragedy might have been prevented if ground staff had been in contact with the pilot as would have ­occurred in the US.