Safety never stops: Airservices refutes safety claims

16 Jul 2015

Airservices has today refuted a number of inaccurate and misleading claims in The Australian and has reaffirmed that flying in Australia’s skies remains one of the safest ways to travel.

The claims that “available radar systems are not being fully used at lower altitudes”, that flights are being “switched off” from radar surveillance, that “safety stops at 10,000 feet” and that regional airports are “nowhere near as safe” are completely false.

Radar is used to track aircraft and display information to air traffic controllers wherever coverage is available. This ensures that controllers have the best available information available to not only keep a flight safely separated from other traffic, but also to provide additional safety benefits such as advice to assist pilots with navigation, weather or terrain avoidance.

The arguments presented in The Australian today confused the issue of ‘radar separation’ with air traffic controllers’ use of radar.

‘Radar separation’ is a procedure that air traffic controllers use to establish a minimum safe distance between two aircraft based solely on radar information. Radar separation requires very specific controller training and very high levels of both radar and communications system reliability.

This type of ‘radar separation’ is not provided at locations that do not have high traffic volumes, and therefore do not require close aircraft spacing. Flights at these locations are being actively managed by an air traffic controller during take-off, landing and cruise and still receive the safety benefits provided by radar and other state-of-the-art technology.

At many regional locations, a ‘procedural separation’ service is provided from the control tower which includes the use of radar information wherever this is available. This is an internationally accepted and recognised procedure to safely manage the movement of aircraft in and out of airports.

In the case of Tasmania, a ‘radar separation’ service is provided in the airspace above the state by air traffic controllers in Melbourne.

Flights below 8500 feet are managed by tower controllers at Launceston and Hobart during the day using the Wide Area Multilateration ‘radar’ system. These controllers use ‘procedural separation’, supported by radar information, to facilitate arrivals and departures.

Australia has one of the safest aviation industries in the world. Safety is the number one priority of all those working in the Australian aviation industry and Airservices remains committed to delivering safe air traffic services that meet government policy, regulatory requirements and the needs of our customers.