Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 1 December 2003
Page: 23397

Mr SIDEBOTTOM (9:10 PM) —The Labor opposition, the Tasmanian government and highly experienced private pilots in my electorate of Braddon—along with many in the aviation industry—believe the National Airspace System will increase the safety risk to air travellers flying to, from or within the state of Tasmania to an unacceptable level. It appears that the only stakeholders to be advantaged by the NAS proposal in Tasmania are visual flight rules—or VFR—private pilots, who will gain increased freedoms. These freedoms, however, come at the expense of the numerically greater travelling public, who will experience a significant reduction in safety levels.

From a Tasmanian perspective, at least three airports will be negatively affected by the NAS changes: the jet airports at Hobart and Launceston as well as the smaller general aviation aerodrome at Cambridge, located near Hobart. Currently, air traffic control towers located at Hobart airport and Launceston airport provide positive separation of aircraft operating under instrument flight rules—or IFR—from all other IFR aircraft and provide traffic information for visual flight rules, or VFR, aircraft and IFR aircraft until visual separation can be established. Most scheduled air services in Tasmanian airspace and over Bass Strait operate under IFR, whereas most light aircraft operate under VFR. To ensure separation in this airspace, all aircraft, until recently, carried radio, communicated with ATC and operated to airways clearance and control instructions.

Under the NAS there will be a lower level of aircraft separation in airspace controlled by the Hobart and Launceston air traffic control towers—with IFR aircraft being separated from other IFR aircraft, but with no IFR/VFR separation. Whilst VFR aircraft will be required to request clearance prior to entering this airspace, and IFR aircraft will be provided with the resulting VFR traffic information, it is unlikely—we believe—that this will always provide adequate separation of aircraft. This problem is exacerbated at Hobart, Cambridge and Launceston airports by their close proximity, the alignment of their respective flight paths, the mix and volume of IFR and VFR aircraft in the area, the mix of speeds of different aircraft types, and the raised-nose approach and take-off attitude of jet aircraft at Hobart and Launceston airports.

The potential for a major accident is intensified by the fact that IFR aircraft travelling between Launceston or Hobart and interstate destinations will transit through what is deemed class E airspace between class D airspace and controlled class A airspace. Under the NAS, VFR aircraft will not be required to obtain an ATC clearance prior to entering class E airspace. They will also not be required to have a radio, nor will the pilot be required to use it if they do have one. To maintain separation from VFR aircraft, pilots will be required to sight other aircraft and maintain their own separation using the `see and avoid' technique. This approach was criticised by the former Bureau of Air Safety Investigation in an award-winning report in 1991.

One potential solution to the problems I have outlined lies in allowing the current airspace procedures at Hobart and Launceston airports to continue in their current form; that is, to allow ATC at Hobart and Launceston airports to continue providing the level of aircraft separation that it currently provides without the need for radar facilities. It is understood that maintaining these procedures at Hobart and Launceston airports would not require any addition resources as this would rely on the staffing levels and measures that currently apply, and that would have applied under the new system. This would provide IFR traffic travelling between Hobart or Launceston and interstate capitals with controlled airspace for the duration of the journey at no additional cost. Another potential solution to the problem is to require the compulsory use of transponders in class D and class E airspace, preferably in conjunction with the introduction of radar facilities at Hobart and Launceston. This is indeed a costly solution to the problem but one that, because of the peculiarities of Tasmania's bad weather conditions and high terrain, should be looked at for the safety of air travellers in Tasmania.