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Old 18th Oct 2013, 23:16   #1 (permalink)
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ATSB Concerned over Military Control Loss of Separation Events

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Air safety investigators have raised concerns about the "relatively high" number of aircraft that have flown too close to one another in the country's military-controlled airspace.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has also warned that that existing laws do not give air safety regulator the Civil Aviation Safety Authority the teeth to provide sufficient oversight of civilian aircraft which fly under military air traffic control.

The disproportionately high number of so-called "loss of separation" incidents in military airspace has prompted the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to urge the Department of Defence to "review all processes and controls in place for aircraft separation".

In the wake of a spate of high-profile incidents, the ATSB released on Friday a 114-page report into so-called "loss of separation" cases between June 2008 and June 2012.
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The bureau's report shows that a loss of separation incident between planes under air-traffic control in Australia occurs on average about once every three days.

But the ATSB has emphasised that the rate of near misses due to civilian air traffic control is one of the lowest in the world. In almost 90 per cent of cases, the bureau said there "was no or a low risk of aircraft colliding", while only about six cases a year "represent an elevated safety risk".

The report shows about half of the instances of aircraft flying too close to each other are due to air traffic controllers' actions, while the other half are the fault of pilots.

However, the ATSB said the number of near misses in military-controlled airspace was "relatively high and most are the result of controller actions".

"Darwin and Williamtown in particular were over-represented," the report said.

While Airservices Australia monitors the bulk of this country's airspace, the Department of Defence oversees both civilian and military aircraft in airspace at Newcastle, Townsville and Darwin.

The military controlled about a quarter of the total plane movements at airports such as Darwin and Townsville but were involved in 36 per cent of near-miss incidents during the period.

ATSB chief commissioner Martin Dolan said Defence did not face the same level of scrutiny as Airservices, despite the fact it had multiple responsibilities keeping watch over both military and civilian planes.

"CASA should be paying a bit more attention to military air traffic control," he said.

"We are not saying there is a huge safety problem here, but there is a notable variation, so a somewhat increased level of risk associated with that military air traffic control."

The ATSB has also released final reports into a near miss between a Virgin Australia plane and a Qantas 737 in South Australia in November 2011, and another incident involving an Etihad A340 and a Tiger Airways A320 in Western Australia two months later.

Following the investigation into the Etihad and Tiger planes flying too close, the ATSB has taken Airservices to task over the limited formal guidance of new controllers.

"We think more needs to be done ... [in how Airservices] monitor these newly endorsed controllers. We will wait to see how Airservices responds," Mr Dolan said.

A so-called loss of separation occurs when two planes are within 305 metres vertically and 9.26 kilometres on a horizontal axis of each other. The latest ATSB research report into near misses compared Australia's air traffic control with a number of jurisdictions, including Canada, the United States and Europe.

The release in July of a confidential report from CASA highlighted a spike in the number of aircraft that had flown too close to one another between late 2011 and early 2012.

That report by CASA into Airservices, the government-owned company that manages Australian airspace, also raised concerns about air traffic controllers' experience and supervision.

While Airservices has increased its total workforce by about 35 per cent in the past decade, the number of air traffic controllers has stayed static, at more than 900.

In the same period, the number of aircraft movements has surged by about 27 per cent.

Last week a preliminary report by ATSB investigators also revealed that the collision warning system on one of two Qantas A330s involved in a near miss near Adelaide last month was not working.

The two Qantas jetliners were flying in opposite directions between Sydney and Perth on September 20 when they were involved in a loss of separation incident in airspace near Adelaide.

However, the initial report made clear that the planes, which can carry up to 300 passengers, would not have collided even if they had continued on their paths before the alert.

Read more: More planes fly too close under military control, Transport Safety Bureau warns
Maybe ASA should be spending money on controllers not bureaucracy after reading this little gem.

Quote:
While Airservices has increased its total workforce by about 35 per cent in the past decade, the number of air traffic controllers has stayed static, at more than 900.

In the same period, the number of aircraft movements has surged by about 27 per cent.
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Old 19th Oct 2013, 01:22   #2 (permalink)
 
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Dick,

27% increase in traffic.

35% increase in empire employees.

Not one controller more over 10 years.

Case rests.
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Old 19th Oct 2013, 23:41   #3 (permalink)
 
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I always brief Darwin ATC as a threat. I have had numerous incidents in their airspace. Seems as though the juniors are the ones controlling. They really need to smarten up their act in Darwin before something goes wrong.
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Old 20th Oct 2013, 00:39   #4 (permalink)
 
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ATSB regrowing some cohunes!!

Planetalking on this subject: ATSB, CASA differ on military ATC safety oversight

It is without doubt refreshing to see that the bureau is again issuing relevant Safety Recommendations, nine for the LOS recently released reports, some of which are even addressed to Fort Fumble... However perhaps within Ben's article we can evidence why it was that the ATsB started shying away from sticking the boots into FF through the once obligatory SR..:
Quote:
In terms of CASA’s mental barrier to crossing the military demarcation line, the reports says:
As the function of CASA is that of maintaining, enhancing and promoting civil aviation safety in Australia, the results of this investigation suggest that CASA’s influence is not as effective as it could be when it comes to the safety of civilian aircraft, including passenger transport aircraft, in military controlled airspace and some level of independent assessment and assurance as to the safety of civil aircraft operations at DoD airports by CASA is warranted.
CASA disagrees.
The Report appears to predicate on the assumption that CASA should have oversight authority in respect of military air traffic services when civil traffic is present. However, no evidence or arguments are presented to support this as the most appropriate option.
In the past, CASA has participated in Defence surveillance of military air traffic services. We have every intention of continuing to do so in the future. The Report fails to acknowledge that activity or the effective benefits it has produced.
The tricky bit above is the ‘effective benefits’ CASA refers to. They don’t appear to effectively exist going on the public record of persistent military air traffic control failures in handling civilian airliners.
The standard rebuttal (in bold) from FF to any perceived criticism of their performance (or lack there of) has been standard fare ever since the LHR tragedy. What is refreshing is that there is finely signs that the bureau is no longer going to play the submissive puppy dog:
Quote:
This ATSB investigation concluded that civilian aircraft have a disproportionate rate of loss of separation incidents which leads to a higher risk of collision in military terminal area airspace in general and all airspace around Darwin and Williamtown in particular. As the function of CASA is that of maintaining, enhancing and promoting civil aviation safety in Australia, the results of this investigation suggest that CASA’s influence is not as effective as it could be when it comes to the safety of civilian aircraft, including passenger transport aircraft, in military controlled airspace and some level of independent assessment and assurance as to the safety of civil aircraft operations at DoD airports by CASA is warranted.
Small steps in the right direction perhaps??
From: SI-2012-034-SI-02
Quote:
Recommendation
Action organisation:Civil Aviation Safety Authority
Action number:AR-2012-034-SR-015 Date:18 October 2013
Action status:Released

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau recommends that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority should review the results of this report and determine whether its current level of involvement with Military air traffic services (ATS) is sufficient to assure itself that the safety of civil aircraft operations while under Military ATS control is adequate.
Wow...that is three SRs addressed to FF in three months...
see here: SRS addressed to CAsA

Last edited by Sarcs; 20th Oct 2013 at 06:05.
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Old 20th Oct 2013, 01:28   #5 (permalink)
 
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I was told many years ago, if you **** up in civil airspace, it's likely your fault. In military airspace, their (atc's) fault. The shortcomings of military atc are no state secret, it's shameful CASA hasn't done anything sooner to improve the situation.
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Old 20th Oct 2013, 04:57   #6 (permalink)
 
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Grrr screwing the wrong pooch

Mail-man,

what is truly shameful is that the ADF has failed to do enough to improve the situation...

But civil access to military infrastructure comes at a price - either increased risk at times or significant inconvenience.

Your slant is a bit like telling your neighbour how often and how low to mow his lawn - the jurisdictional issues are clear to most observers.

Military bases and airspace were typically closed to civilian use, one minor reason being the military wanted ATS flexibility in efficiently delivering the mission with the minimum of procedural constraint. That may now be part of the modern civil ATS mantra, but it is not part of the DNA or culture of civil ATC (both worldwide and historically). So now, by opening up to civil operations, should the military necessarily be forced to adopt those civil procedures and standards that interfere with their normal course of doing business?

If you want to jump into your neighbour's backyard, remember that you are a guest and that his rules apply. Civil access to military infrastructure comes with the same proviso. Where the balance needs to be found is in those procedures and standards that have a minimal downside for military operations but significant upside for mixed operations.

Stay Alive,
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Old 20th Oct 2013, 05:25   #7 (permalink)
 
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I appreciate your point and If there were another darwin/townsville airport, i'd happily go there instead.
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Old 20th Oct 2013, 05:52   #8 (permalink)
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But civil access to military infrastructure comes at a price - either increased risk at times or significant inconvenience.
Hang on civil operators pay money to fly in this airspace. If the military want their own systems they can pay for it out of their own budget and have the benefit of Military only zones. The RAAF gain from a cost reduction in running dual airports yet really don't provide a great ATC service, mainly due to their system of 'perpetual training'.
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Old 20th Oct 2013, 09:36   #9 (permalink)
 
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Hogwash..

Civil operators pay money because they can make more money; they don't fly into Darwin/Williamtown/Townsville to make a loss!

As for..
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If the military want their own systems they can pay for it out of their own budget and have the benefit of Military only zones.
They do pay for it from their own budget! And it's why, when they were built, military bases were generally where no other operator wanted to be; it also resulted in the benefit of their own CTZs.

If it weren't for the 'can do' attitude and compromise by military personnel to do their best (always more with less!) acceding to the lobbying and political pressure for civil access, every military flying base would be safer without civil traffic in the mix.

Finally, as for 'perpetual training', it's what tends to be necessary when an organisation's under-resourced/limited ATC staff do duties in Iraq/Afghanistan/disaster zones etc for long periods, and at their home base. All at the behest of a grateful nation.
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Old 20th Oct 2013, 10:28   #10 (permalink)
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Finally, as for 'perpetual training', it's what tends to be necessary when an organisation's under-resourced/limited ATC staff do duties in Iraq/Afghanistan/disaster zones etc for long periods, and at their home base. All at the behest of a grateful nation.
The point you miss is that airlines are paying big coin at all these military airports for a control service which it would appear is not to the standard that is expected.

If the ADF cannot provide the service they should give it back to ASA.

Quote:
And it's why, when they were built, military bases were generally where no other operator wanted to be; it also resulted in the benefit of their own CTZs.
I think you will find it was a cost saving exercise rather than the military doing anyone a favour. All airports in this country were ultimately built by the taxpayer. The fact that some were military was just a way of saving money.

Quote:
They do pay for it from their own budget! And it's why, when they were built, military bases were generally where no other operator wanted to be; it also resulted in the benefit of their own CTZs.
Not exactly Townsville was built on the civil aerodrome and in Darwin the government decided to close the civil airport and merge with the RAAF

Last edited by neville_nobody; 20th Oct 2013 at 10:32.
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Old 20th Oct 2013, 11:36   #11 (permalink)
 
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Pffft.

No point missed!

I believe that if the ADF ATC were resourced in line with the increase in traffic at military airfields we wouldn't talking about this. ASA never 'had' Williamtown for example, and does ASA itself even have the staff for your simple plan?

The reasons for base location are immaterial, and amount to the same outcome anyway so what's your point? And I said 'generally', or were Point Cook, Laverton, Amberley, Richmond, Pearce, Learmonth, Curtin, Weipa, Willamtown, Tindal, Edinburgh, Woomera & Oakey all desirable locations for civil hubs?

With adequate resources, any problem has a solution. The point you seem to miss is that airlines and the tax payers would have to pay a lot more coin if it weren't for the ability to joint-use military facilities. (through either base relocations to even less desirable places, or completely new civil airports)

Finally, to the assertion that the RAAF 'gain' from all this. Really? How much? Can you also comment on what is lost when the increasing civil movements impact on RAAF operations? I suspect you have little idea.
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Old 20th Oct 2013, 14:22   #12 (permalink)
 
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Question paying for service

Hey Nev,

Bit out of my knowledge base, but do the airlines pay the military for this stuff? I know they pay Airservices ( and handsomely, given the consistent monopoly profits) for all sorts of things, but I haven't heard of fees paid to the ADF - do you know what they're called or how they are designated?
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Old 20th Oct 2013, 16:31   #13 (permalink)
 
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The Mil guys hold the same licences as the civil guys yes? If so, the standard of controlling aircraft should be the same. Sounds like a bunch of excuses here. Perhaps the training and licensing area of the Airforce is where the investigation should focus.
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Old 20th Oct 2013, 20:20   #14 (permalink)
 
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Who pays who and how much sounds like a bean counter issue, the only important fact is that Mil ATC are not up to the job and haven't been for many years. There are reasons for that and those reasons should have been dealt with years ago.
I recall an investigation into Darwin ATC around 1993 (I think), by BASI (back then) CASA (or whatever their name was that year) and the military them selves.
Although the we (the complainants) were advised we would be privy to the outcome we weren't. I can only assume that was due to the results being worse than expected. Nothings changed.

Last edited by RENURPP; 20th Oct 2013 at 20:20.
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Old 20th Oct 2013, 23:22   #15 (permalink)
 
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Nev

As much as you want to believe it the RAAF has had no gain from civvies flying into Willy. Its a PITA for everyone.

If the airlines are unhappy with the service I suggest they could provide their own infrastructure?
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Old 21st Oct 2013, 00:14   #16 (permalink)
 
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A classic Downunder prune thread
A problem has been identified and two sides go to war
A war with hissy fits and handbag throwing that is
Anyone got any positive contribution, a way forward maybe, constructive suggestions?
After all we are all on the same sides...except for the same tired old burnt out sad sacks chucking their toys out of the cot
I should mention the biggest hissy fit has been the media release from the current CAF. I had more respect for him than that example of defensive PR spin

Last edited by ozbiggles; 21st Oct 2013 at 00:22.
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Old 21st Oct 2013, 02:05   #17 (permalink)
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Bit out of my knowledge base, but do the airlines pay the military for this stuff? I know they pay Airservices ( and handsomely, given the consistent monopoly profits) for all sorts of things, but I haven't heard of fees paid to the ADF - do you know what they're called or how they are designated?
Good question not sure how the accounting's done but the military don't pay any fees to use YPDN/YWLM/YBTL but the civilians do. A A320/737 type aircraft would yield between $8-9000 per turnaround at Darwin depending on pax load. That's nearly 12 mil a year if there is only a few flights.

I would guess that the RAAF are paid by ASA or the airport to provide a ATC service. They would be considered a sub contractor as such. If they're not I would love to know where all the money goes for enroute and landing charges then.

Quote:
With adequate resources, any problem has a solution. The point you seem to miss is that airlines and the tax payers would have to pay a lot more coin if it weren't for the ability to joint-use military facilities. (through either base relocations to even less desirable places, or completely new civil airports)
Well the tax payers would be paying much more. I don't think it would cost much more to run a civy airport as there is much more traffic to fund it. Joint users are a cost saving measure for everyone and they work fine as long as the safety standards are maintained.

Last edited by neville_nobody; 21st Oct 2013 at 02:06.
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Old 21st Oct 2013, 02:11   #18 (permalink)
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Here's the RAAF response:

ATSB report draws strong defence from RAAF over separation losses | Australian Aviation Magazine

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A report from research by the Australian Transportation Safety Bureau (ATSB) into loss of separation (LOS) incidents in Australian airspace has drawn immediate and strong defence from the operator of military airspace, in which the ATSB found a disproportionate level of LOS incidents over two years.

The Bureau said “military controlled terminal area airspace in general, and all airspace around Darwin and Williamtown in particular, had a disproportionate rate of LOS for civilian aircraft.

In an immediate response, Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Geoff Brown said the unique nature of military flying meant the ATSB report had unfairly compared civilian and military airspace.

“I am disappointed that the report has chosen to concentrate on the loss of separation incidents in military airspace, and does not address the 80 per cent of loss of separation incidents that occur in civil air traffic control space, which is outside of Air Force’s control,” Brown said in a statement.

The ATSB report showed that although there was an increase in the number of occurrences reported over the two years ending in June 2012, there were fewer LOS occurrences during that period than during 2005 to 2008. The Bureau noted that a LOS between aircraft under air traffic control jurisdiction happened on average about once every three days. “In almost 90 per cent of LOS occurrences, there was no or minimal risk of aircraft colliding,” the ATSB said. “On average, however, there are six occurrences per year where an elevated risk of collision exists.”

The ATSB has issued recommendations to the Department of Defence to review all processes and controls in place for aircraft separation in military air traffic services and to CASA to review whether its current level of involvement with military ATS is sufficient to assure the safety of civil aircraft operations.

“The factors which may make military airspace more dynamic and variable, do not necessarily make the airspace less safe,” Brown said.

“The nature of military flying requires multiple aircraft flying in formation, making the airspace particularly crowded for brief periods. Other training such as formation flights and training for hostile situations are not encountered by civilian aircraft.”

Brown noted the ATSB report found that military airspace only accounted for 20 per cent of LOS incidents and no evidence of fundamental deficiencies in the safety management of aircraft separation in Australia.

Notwithstanding the sharp defence of the RAAF’s performance, Brown has committed to a review of air traffic management plans and airspace design for RAAF Bases Darwin, Townsville and Williamtown. These three bases integrate a large number of military and civil aircraft types, and the review “will ensure military airspace is more error resistant”.

Last edited by neville_nobody; 21st Oct 2013 at 02:11.
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Old 21st Oct 2013, 04:17   #19 (permalink)
 
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As an Ex WLM controller, tbh im surprised the report isnt more scathing.

Whilst I was at WLM i constantly wondered if today was the day for a serious incident. My job was to go in every day and prevent it from happening and keeping multiple customers happy. The response by defence was pretty typical of what the problem is, but lack the upper level management vision or courage to fix the issue.

Controlling at WLM is hard. Its hard because SIDS and STARS dont exist, if you are controlling something it is on a vector, the aircraft within the airspace travel at vastly different speeds. You only have 25nm of airspace and dont get a 'handoff' for military aircraft returning from the training areas (that are on occasion doing 500kts or more at 25nm to run) That is impossible to sequence.

The defence controllers there in my opinion to a pretty damn good job given what they are being asked to accomplish. They however are not being given the resources required to do it. And herein lies the problem. WLM has been understaffed since it began doing 16/7 operations. This affects controllers time on console (per shift), how long a break they get (between time on console), what sort of recreation leave they get.

Given all that, WLM controllers in particular are working too hard, controlling for too long, are getting inadequate breaks and on top of all that, not getting the Rec leave they deserve. This makes a fatigued controller, and fatigued controllers make more errors.

Defence could rectify the issue by posting in some staff to relieve the control and administration burden currently being placed on controllers (and managers) but since WLM has been functioning as a 16/7 airfield, defence leadership has simply failed to do it, and its continuing failure to do so is the biggest threat to aviation safety at Williamtown.

A disclaimer: My experience was when I left that the current management at the unit was doing the best job that they could given the situation they were placed in by both the upper management and the previous management. This issue isnt going to be fixed by a stern talking to by the CO/OC of the Squadron/Wing, they need to actually do something to help the current workforce, not just expect them to ride out the storm that the controllers posted into Williamtown saw when they got there, and will probably remain there when they leave.
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Old 21st Oct 2013, 05:18   #20 (permalink)
 
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Is this a real report? Or a backscratch for AsA to help justify the new ONE Sky project?

If you look at the graph on p19, it hardly looks like Military control services are a significant problem. The report data doesn't seem to match the rhetoric of the press release.

Most LOS incidents seem to be civil and due to ATC workload - which takes us back to Jack Ranga's post.
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