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#ASA now refusing to answer questions by The Australian

#ASA now refusing to answer questions by The Australian

Questions, which are a proper part of the transference of information and cooperation that should exist in aviation. This cooperation must exist in order that a joint improvement is made to aviation, rather than one-sided approaches.

The Airservices media unit refused to provide any information or comment yesterday.

The current #MH17 issue, where the insurer is avoiding payments is a case in point.

The insurer being reported as refusing to pay internationally [#ICAO] amounts to those families of people who have been killed, without a sign-off saying they won’t be part of any other action.

In the Lockhart River tragedy, it was over 7-years and the #PelAir matter is reaching finality in the Courts system [insurance claim] now [July 2015], almost 6-years later. This is not good enough as it leaves families in a very desperate situation, with little means to “move on” and personally deal with the loss, much less in the case of #PelAir, the injuries sustained.

This is even worse where the matters have not been properly dealt with by the regulator and the investigator.

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Let fireys help our pilots: airport boss Phillip Cash

‘We need to be able to upskill people’: Phillip Cash, chief executive of Gladstone Airpor

‘We need to be able to upskill people’: Phillip Cash, chief executive of Gladstone Airport. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen Source: News Corp Australia

A key aviation figure has called on Airservices Australia to drop its opposition to having its firefighters provide pilots with potentially life-saving air traffic and weather information, as their US counterparts do at regional airports.

Phillip Cash, the chief executive of Gladstone Airport, 550km north of Brisbane, has said the proposal was an “excellent opportunity” to increase the safety of air travel in a cost-effective fashion.

Mr Cash, who has worked as an airport manager in several locations in Australia, as well as in India and Mauritius, also described as bizarre the piecemeal air traffic control system, in which Rockhampton Airport — not far away and with similar passenger numbers — has fully controlled airspace directed by air traffic controllers from a tower, but his airport has none of those benefits.

“Here we are, 115km away, and you would think Rockhampton air traffic control would be able to manage traffic here,” he said.

Whereas aircraft flying into Rockhampton are guided all the way to the runway by controllers who maintain separation, at Gladstone, pilots flying in cloud have to talk to each other over the radio, exchanging their own estimates of their positions and negotiating with one another over who will take what manoeuvres to avoid colliding.

Mr Cash cited as an example of the variety of contradictions a recent incident at his airport, now under investigation, in which a ground staff officer had been forced to make an unauthorised radio call to a pilot to prevent a potent­ial collision between one aircraft and another, which was apparently not making the required­ radio calls.

Gladstone is one of the airports, as is Ballina in northern NSW, with no tower with air traffic controllers, but it has a fire and rescue station staffed by officers employed by Airservices, the government-owned body which runs the country’s airspace system.

Under current regulations, only individuals who have held air traffic controller licences in the past 10 years are allowed to communicate over the radio to provide pilots with local air traffic and weather information.

Mr Cash pointed to the absurdity of this system, under which the Gladstone Airport employee who used the radio to warn off a possible collision, and the pilot, if he or she acted on the inform­ation, could be prosecuted. “You are not going to sit there and watch something happen,” he said.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has a program to grant exemptions so that other airport ground staff including firefighters could receive training and be lawfully permitted to perform such a radio information service.

“The fact that they are there, they are in place for the whole oper­ational day, and they work for the same organisation which provides air traffic services, makes it sensible,” Mr Cash said. “Clearly there is a cost, and that would have to be reviewed, along with a cost- benefit analysis and obviously a risk analysis.”

The chairman of Airservices Australia, Angus Houston, has joined forces with the air traffic controllers union in opposing such a move, saying the first duty of the fire and rescue crews is emergency response.

Ballina Byron Gateway Airport manager Neil Weatherson, after an initial but quickly abortive flirtation with seeing whether the firefighters might do it, has decided­ to hire a team of retired air traffic controllers to provide weather and traffic information.

Mr Cash said each airport faced different circumstances, but for his operation he regarded hiring a separate crew as an unnecessary expense when the Airservices firefighters could be trained to do it. “We need to be able to upskill people­ to be multi-skilled, and be upgrading our services,” he said.

The Airservices media unit refuse­d to provide any inform­ation or comment yesterday.

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