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Australia’s scary skies prompt senator to speak out

July 18, 2013 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, has warned of “serious concerns within the industry about the ability of Airservices Australia to manage Australia’s airspace safely”.

He spoke after an internal report into Australia’s air traffic control system found serious deficiencies with the operation, safety and management of the country’s skies.

Documents obtained by ABC News under Australia’s Freedom of Information laws show Australia’sMystic-Place-Bangkok-www.mysticbangkokhotel monopoly air traffic control provider, Airservices Australia, has overseen a system “where problems go unsolved amid an organisational culture which employees say is dysfunctional,” the broadcaster said.

A report written by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and obtained by the ABC, details hundreds of incidents, ranging from training shortcomings to mismanagement of staff.

CASA expressed concern at a decline the number of air traffic controllers at the same time as an increase in middle and upper management.

Australian and International Pilots Association vice president Captain Richard Woodward told the ABC the CASA report was concerning. The system had shown “some fairly severe cracks, and the report identifies that”, he said.

A lack of trained controllers is cited as a problem and many controllers are said to be frustrated at training provided for new staff, which they consider inadequate.

The 2012 Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) audit detailed 10 “serious incidents” involving so-called separation events (known more popularly as “near misses”), in which planes come too close. Four of them involved air traffic services.

Xenophon has called on Airservices Australia management to implement the recommendations from the CASA review as a matter of urgency.

“More air traffic controllers – the front-line staff – are needed, rather than more bureaucrats,” he said.

Xenophon said CASA’s report vindicated serious concerns within the industry about the ability of Airservices Australia to manage Australia’s airspace safely.

“It’s time for action. I believe the new management – by retired Defence Force chief Angus Houston and  Air Vice-Marshal Margaret Staib – will instigate a huge cultural shift in the organisation to deal with these systemic problems.”

Senator Xenophon first raised concerns about Airservices Australia’s ability to function effectively in Senate Estimates in early 2011.

“Airservices Australia has been issued with hundreds of non-compliance notices by CASA over the past few years,” Xenophon noted.

“But the problem is, Airservices Australia effectively operates as a monopoly in this field. CASA wouldn’t be able to shut it down even if it wanted to.

“It’s just not good enough. If a commercial airline had problems like that, CASA would be banging down its doors pronto.”

Senator Xenophon said CASA needed to work closely with Airservices Australia management to ensure the recommendations were acted upon.

Written by : Peter Needham

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