View Full Version : Politicisation of Air Safety

21st Nov 2003, 09:22
The following is an extract from a paper presented to the AAA Convention this week by the RAAA Chairman. Although similar to the topic on NAS, I believe it needs to be highlighted as a specific issue.

Politicisation of Air Safety

The predilection of the current government to interfere in matters fundamentally affecting air safety in response to advice received from political advisers and enthusiastic amateurs rather than from the responsible department, and against the professional advice of the industry, is a potentially very dangerous but accelerating trend. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of the National Airspace System (NAS).

As we have already seen, in the introduction to its recently released Airspace Adviser No 1 (dated August 2003 but distributed in November, just three weeks prior to the introduction of NAS), the Aviation Reform Group stated that:

“Australian Aviation faces difficult times...Airlines and regional operators are also feeling the pinch. It’s a tough business environment, and one that can no longer afford Australia’s inefficient and restrictive Airspace system.”

Presumably on the basis of that assessment, the Federal Government has begun systematically dismantling the system which has provided acceptable safety in regional airspace for many years. However while the ARG appears to be trying to justify NAS on the basis of cost savings for industry, neither the ARG nor the Government seems able to state either how safety will be maintained, or what savings will accrue overall, or how they will be distributed to Industry. The increase in Class E airspace in what was previously Class G seems to us to be likely to require additional, not less staff. That NAS is being introduced as a cost saving measure for industry while government has no idea of what cost savings if any will accrue, is very curious.

The NAS is claimed to offer improved safety, and so it might, but the NAS Implementation Group has consistently refused to implement Industry’s requests for it to perform a full, independently audited, design safety case to demonstrate even the maintenance of adequate safety. Why?

So far, the Industry has not argued against NAS per se, but it has serious concerns about some aspects of NAS. In particular, it has concerns about the way that VFR aircraft are being removed from visibility within the overall air traffic system, as if they do not thereby pose a threat to IFR aircraft operating within the same airspace. In particular, the industry objects to the effective removal of common altimeter settings for IFR and VFR aircraft, and the removal of VHF area frequency and boundary information from both IFR and VFR charts.

While NASIG argues that these measures enhance safety, it should be blatantly obvious even to intelligent amateurs that they will significantly degrade safety, in particular in Class E airspace in the vicinity of Class D tower airspace. Our greatest concern is the obviously increased risk of mid-air collisions between legitimate VFR aircraft and higher speed IFR aircraft climbing or descending through the VFR aircraft’s altitude. “Looking out the window” and “flying with the lights on”, which seem to be NASIG’s only planned defences against this risk, are both unlikely to assist, especially when the IFR aircraft is closing on a VFR aircraft at high speed from behind.

One practical and entirely reasonable measure that would materially help to reduce the risk, is the publication of area frequencies and boundaries on charts after 27 November, as is current practice. This would allow VFR pilots to hear IFR aircraft transmissions prior to their descent, and thus alert them to possible conflicts. It would also ensure that where radar identified a potential conflict, the controller could warn both aircraft, and it would allow both aircraft to self separate in airspace without radar coverage. Without the appropriate area frequency, VFR pilots are effectively blind, deaf and dumb, and the collision risk is greatly magnified. However the responsible minister has refused to even discuss these valid and reasonable safety concerns with the industry, which begs the obvious question: why?

In the absence of willingness by the Minister, CASA or NASIG to seriously discuss these concerns with industry, one can only assume that NAS is driven by a political agenda and not by any desire for improved safety for the travelling public or cost savings to industry as claimed.

The CASA Board, which previously gave CASA a degree of independence, has recently been abolished, and the Barrett case (and subsequently the Jarrett case in NSW) has demonstrated that senior public servants hold their appointments at the pleasure of the responsible minister. Thus there is now no longer any truly independent avenue for the review of safety decisions such as those surrounding the introduction of NAS Stage 2.b. Furthermore, there is now no avenue for concerned industry bodies to seek redress. This is a very serious and potentially dangerous situation.

Let me repeat our Association’s belief that for anyone engaged in serious flying in regional Australia below 10,000 feet, whether VFR or IFR, the risk of mid-air collision generally, but especially around airports with regular IFR arrivals and departures, will be significantly increased on 27 November 2003. These concerns have been brought to the attention of NASIG, CASA, and the Minister. Attempts by the industry to offer alternative advice have been and continue to be ignored. Let us hope that our luck will hold, and that the random separation of aircraft upon which NASIG appears to be counting, will keep our passengers and crews and the people below, safe. In our opinion, safety is too important to be a political football.

In any event, if the responsible minister is prepared to see the safety of aircraft operators and the travelling public substantially prejudiced in regional Australian airspace on the basis that we can no longer afford it, how can his department simultaneously impose significant additional cost penalties on industry in order to achieve at the very best, very minor incremental improvements in safety? It suggests a certain inconsistency and a disregard for the well-being of both the regional aviation industry and the people of regional Australia who it serves.

I can only but agree.

"no known traffic" :ok:

21st Nov 2003, 21:16
BRAVO!:cool: :ok:

22nd Nov 2003, 12:02
Very valid. The question remains, who is listening?

22nd Nov 2003, 21:17
Champion stuff..no-one is listening.
Its union business now....

24th Nov 2003, 08:23
Finally someone who has the guts to say what we have all known!


Congratulations Phil!!

24th Nov 2003, 20:46



SM4 Pirate
25th Nov 2003, 08:23
Phil is a top bloke and has held this company on track for many years; the previous yes man has departed and Phil and executive management have been butting heads ever since.

Its a bit like QF butting heads with the cheif pilot over technical issues, but the managers win...

We are all doomed, because now the mouse is charge of the cheese factory. One onyl hopes that Jason, Justin or Robyn can do anywhere near the job of Phil and keep Andrew and co away from operational decisions.


Bottle of Rum

25th Nov 2003, 14:40
Wow. More lies to add to the heap.
It appears the comments of a frustrated employee, are being used by the Opposition Transport spokesperson, Martin Ferguson, to indicate there is discord within the corporation over the safety of NAS. This is without foundation. The Board and Management have satisfied themselves that the 27 November changes are safe and should proceed,” Mr Grant said.
So if the Board and Management agree, there is no discord ? What about all the guys who actually do the job who are screaming? (A little insight into the AsA culture for anyone who hasn't worked there- those in Canberra wouldn't know where/what the coalface was). The actual workers don't count, right Tom? They are just an expense, a number, sort of like the statistical probability of having a mid-air on any given day.....:hmm:

25th Nov 2003, 16:25
For some more interesting reading - go to:


then select PDF file for Sept/Oct Newsletter.

Talk about politics! This is 4-Corners stuff.

If the unthinkable occurs, then not only will the Minister be out so may well the Government.

25th Nov 2003, 18:04
If the unthinkable occurs
... there could be anything up to 400 casualties. The loss of an idiotic minister or other public functionary would not bring one casualty back to life. I wonder if anyone has considered the potential insurance difficulties associated with "the unthinkable" event?

Surely, insurance companies will seize on any reason to bail out of their liability. I guess that will mean lawsuits against the government and various other authorities. The only winner there will be the lawyers, of course... :{

Gunner B12
25th Nov 2003, 19:14
I tried to put this point forward on another thread but that thread seems to have just degenerated into a slanging match so I'll see what you guys think.

Doesn't this put the airlines in an akward position as the employer is responsible for the safety of their employees and the people their operations effect. The thing is you can't blame the law as there are many areas in which work is allowed in hazardous conditions (eg Asbestos removal) but the employer has to provide protection and safe practices. I may be wrong but I don't think you can hold a third party responsible for your workers safety so they can't even blame the service providers.

This being the case don't we get to the ultimate user pays system?

26th Nov 2003, 04:25

Nail on the head.

This is all about RISK to passengers, aircrew and ground service personnel.

Risk - as an assessment against:

LIABILITY (consequent to the mishap - WHO pays - WHO is liable)

REPUTATION/P.R. (and the effect upon airlines, the aviation and tourism industry for AUS.

COMPLIANCE - (what part has OH&S legislation played in all of this - where were and what response do we have from COMCARE/WORK COVER entities?).

Sounds a bit like the reason for a Safety Management System doesn't it?

What risk reduction stategy was formulated to protect against the increased risk - but wait - that is a function of a Safety Case following a feasibility study.

Oops - missed that!

But when the going gets tough - just throw all of these good reasons, practices and Legislation out of the window.

26th Nov 2003, 08:38
It is both disturbing and somewhat gratifying to learn that Air Trafffic Controllers are not the only group whose genuine concerns are being ignored, and whose motives and professionalism impugned.
I had thought that Helicopter Jelly just had it in for us.
When oh when are we to be rid of this individual?

Captain Sand Dune
26th Nov 2003, 08:52
Wonder if Mssrs Anderson, Smith et al will be up for a flight in a jet RPT type into YBAS, or YBRM, or YMHB tomorrow?:E