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The phoenix, McCormick arises

The phoenix, McCormick arises

McCormick arises again, to protect his position, when in #casa. What occurred is now fortuitously explained, following McCormick’s hurried exit from #casa in 2014.

It certainly was not important enough in 2014 and before, for McCormick to draw the attention of the aviation industry to this dangerous and extremely poor situation of providing advice to pilots.

The regulator in this expose by Ean Higgins, seems to be protecting a position of the regulator vs. the air services monopoly provider and placing Angus Houston of the #ASA Board in a parlous position.

The #asa union [CivilAir] have already defended the status quo, as have their employers – #asa.

Dick Smith has reminded us of the Benalla accident, with six souls lost, when #ASA failed to advise the pilot of being off-track. The final upshot was, in simple terms, the GPS guidance system was out of whack, tolerance lost and the last piece of the “Swiss holed cheese” lined up with fatal consequences.

Dick is correct in his assertion that #ASA did not advise the pilot.

The second issue here is the intolerable situation where, except at great cost, there can be no advice to incoming aircraft of other traffic, where known or of changed weather or deteriorating situations.

Dick Smith draws our attention to Ballina, but I remind you of the PelAir incident at Norfolk Island, where the weather did change, the unicom operator was constrained in giving advice, the aircraft passes it’s point-of-no-return [PNR] and a ditching results.

The patient subsequently dies and a Doctor and Nurse are seriously injured. The pilot cannot get work in his chosen field [colloquially, tainted goods] and the co-pilot has never made any public statements about what happened that night.

This leaves the real victim the poorly compensated husband of the patient, who has now died [February, 2015].

Yet despite a Senate finding, the ASRR review, Canadian TSB review and a re-opened #atsb investigation, the Department, under Mike Mrdak – which includes #casa, #asa and #atsb steadfastly refuse to make proper changes.


Airservices resisted safety drive, says ex CASA boss John McCormick

John McCormick Former head of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, at Canberra Airport. P

John McCormick Former head of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, at Canberra Airport. Picture: Kym Smith Source: News Corp Australia

The former head of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority says his five-year campaign for safer skies came up against repeated resistance from Airservices Australia, which dragged its heels against ­reforming airspace management along US lines.

John McCormick, who stepped down from CASA last year, said that he met opposition each time he moved to have Airservices, the government-owned body that runs the nation’s air traffic control and navigation system, extend controlled airspace.

In his first interview since ­leaving the aviation watchdog, Mr McCormick said Airservices seemed reluctant to implement measures that involved its air ­traffic controllers directing aircraft over a wider range of airspace where reliable radar was available. “Their objections were not based on safety; to my belief, they were internal Airservices ­issues,” Mr McCormick said.

In one case, Mr McCormick said, he had to issue a directive to have Airservices’ air traffic controllers take charge of aircraft around Avalon airport in Victoria, a move he believes may have ­prevented a potential serious air accident.

Mr McCormick said he supported calls from businessman and aviator Dick Smith and others for Airservices to have its fire and rescue crews at regional airports without control towers to provide pilots with basic local air traffic and weather information via radio, as do their counterparts in the US.

Airservices chairman Angus Houston has vigorously opposed the suggestion.

Mr McCormick said it made sense because Airservices’ prime responsibility was air safety and the firefighters were its employees. “You have to say, ‘What are they there for … what do we want them to do’,” Mr McCormick said.

Mr McCormick, who started his career as a RAAF fighter pilot before becoming a Qantas pilot and later a senior executive with Cathay Pacific, put his weight behind restarting the effort begun in the early 2000s to move to the US and Canadian national airspace system.

In those countries, whether radar is available or not, commercial aircraft are always under direction by air traffic controllers almost right to the runway. “They say they have implemented it, but of course they haven’t,” Mr McCormick said of the unfulfilled plans to introduce the North American system.

Australia still has a mishmash of regimes in which some airports are in designated controlled airspace, but most others, including some with significant airline traffic, are not, requiring pilots in cloud to talk to each other to work out their relative positions and avoid collisions.

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

Mr McCormick’s decision to speak out follows a sustained campaign by The Australian raising issues of air safety and the administration of government aviation organisations.

While the new CASA chairman, Jeff Boyd, recently unveiled to this newspaper a reform agenda to embrace the US model, Mr Smith suspects he will encounter push-back from Airservices because of what he claims is a misguided assumption on its part that it would mean hiring more air traffic controllers.

Mr McCormick said he did succeed in some reform, such as improving airspace arrangements at the main secondary airports used for general aviation in each mainland capital.

At Avalon, not far from Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport, the situation was absurd, Mr McCormick said, because the radar coverage of the area was so good “you could see aircraft on the ground” but it was not being used for air traffic control down to the runway.

“I said that this was unacceptable. For various reasons, there was a bit of objection,” Mr McCormick said, referring to Airservices.

He said Airservices did not move fast to implement the CASA directive to bring Avalon under controlled airspace. “It took them a year. They hybrided their way towards it,” Mr McCormick said.

It was after controlled airspace was introduced at Avalon that air traffic controllers helped avoid what potentially could have been a major air accident, Mr McCormick said, after a Tiger Airways airline pilot decided on a go-around of the runway at night.

“In the subsequent missed approach procedure the radar controller noticed they were descending when they shouldn’t be,” Mr McCormick said. “The controller told them, then they arrested their descent. If that airspace wouldn’t have been changed, he or she would not have had the requirement to monitor that aircraft.”

It was a further example, Mr McCormick said, of how controlled airspace should be extended at least wherever reliable radar coverage was available.

In 2004, air traffic controllers did not intervene when a radar alarm warned them an aircraft was off-course in uncontrolled airspace, and it crashed into terrain near Benalla in Victoria with the loss of six lives.

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