Airline and other commercial pilots are increasingly concerned by the downgrading of controlled airspace by the government’s air navigation agency Airservices Australia (AsA).
Regular downgrading of controlled airspace, particularly across parts of Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia in recent months, has meant some airlines have restricted or delayed flight operations through this airspace due to safety concerns.
The downgrading of airspace, through a procedure known as TIBA (Traffic Information Broadcast by Aircraft), means pilots are increasingly solely relying on contingency measures, such as radio communication between each other, without the assistance of air traffic controllers.
“This reduces the safety aspects that pilots are governed by and the non-standard application to manage airspace in this manner is a deviation to our current and robust safety practices,” according to AusALPA President Captain Louise Pole.
“These contingency procedures should only be introduced when there are temporary deficiencies in the air traffic control infrastructure, such as in an emergency, and certainly for a limited duration only,” she said.
“This has been going on for some months and has recently become more prevalent and of greater concern.”
“We understand that there have been significant redundancies at Airservices Australia and that this is now creating issues concerning staffing levels of suitably qualified air traffic controllers,” she said.
According to Civil Air Australia, AsA has resorted to these measures due to not having adequate staff available in part due to unplanned absenteeism but also due to 10 per cent of the workforce taking up generous early retirement offers.
AusALPA strongly urges AsA to immediately provide a robust and credible plan to staff all of Australia’s controlled airspace.
“Air traffic control staffing levels must be bolstered so that Airservices can adequately meet demand to manage the safe, orderly flow of aircraft into and out of Australia's airspace,” said Captain Pole.