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Taskforce cautions on sustainability of air traffic increases in WA

written by WOFA | July 12, 2013

Perth traffic

A CASA-led taskforce has cautioned that the lack of use of ADS-B in the rapidly-growing Western Australia aviation sector could see the imposition of restrictive measures if aircraft operators do not accelerate the fitment of ADS-B avionics.

The taskforce, established by CASA in 2011 comprising the Department of Infrastructure, Airservices and Defence to conduct a two-year study of the region’s air traffic management and air safety environment, has made a number of recommendations to better manage the rapid rise in WA’s air traffic volumes.

A particular focus was the state’s north-west area where demand has been greatest, coming from a surge in fly-in/fly-out (FIFO) operators that use a wide variety of aircraft ranging from small turbo prop aircraft through to large high capacity jets. This, the report said, “has contributed to the complex mix of aircraft with quite different performance and equipment levels operating across the state.”

Among taskforce concerns was the lack of radar surveillance coverage outside 250nm of Perth, which has resulted in a growing demand for procedural separation services. “Increasing traffic applies increasing pressure on the efficiency of the procedural enroute air traffic control service provided within the study airspace,” the report noted.

The lack of Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) avionics equipage of FIFO poses a significant challenge for Airservices and the region’s operators alike.

“The efficiency benefits provided by this existing surveillance network has not been realised because many of the aircraft engaged in FIFO operations are not equipped and are not currently required to be equipped with the appropriate ADS-B avionics,” the taskforce report stated.

CASA has already mandated that all IFR aircraft operating within 500nm of Perth Airport are required to be equipped with ADS-B (out) from February 4 2016. Airservices has said at least 90 per cent of aircraft flights in the airspace must be ADS-B equipped to maximise the benefits of the ADS-B surveillance network in regional WA.


“Without an interim surveillance solution in regional Western Australian airspace prior to 4 February 2016, air traffic simulations – based on current ATC arrangements – have demonstrated that Airservices would need to take restrictive measures to ensure air traffic services continue to be provided safely and efficiently. Therefore, Airservices has engaged with the mining industry to encourage ADS-B fitment of existing aircraft engaged in FIFO operations, as early as January 2014,” the taskforce said.

The nine recommendations include a review of the airspace classification in the Pilbara region following the commissioning of the temporary radar facility at Paraburdoo, which the report said was in accordance with the Air Traffic Management initiatives in the Aviation White Paper.

The use of ADS-B will be promoted, with FIFO and Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) operators should be encouraged to fit ADS-B avionics as soon as possible prior to the ADS-B mandate.

Specifically, the report noted, Airservices should develop an implementation plan to increase ADS-B coverage in areas of high current and future growth, density and complexity. Furthermore, CASA will assess the feasibility and legitimacy of introducing ADS-B only routes and sectors by June 2014.

Aviation infrastructure in the state was noted to have been deficient and without a coordinated approach. The taskforce has recommended that Western Australian state and local aerodrome planning processes should ensure Airservices and CASA are involved earlier and throughout the planning and development of new aerodromes, or when changes to existing aerodromes are proposed, “given these developments can have significant aviation safety, capacity, efficiency and environmental impacts”, the report noted.

“All Western Australian airport operators and Airservices should, in undertaking airport and air traffic planning, ensure environmental impacts are assessed, and managed, consistent with the relevant Commonwealth and State legislative and regulatory requirements and in close consultation with the community and industry,” the report commented, seeking to better align local and federal aviation interests.

The taskforce also noted that aircraft movement efficiency would be served better by Airservices encouraging airlines and airport operators to be compliant with traffic flow management systems, especially at Perth Airport.

Under the recommendations, CASA and Airservices will continue to monitor passenger and movement data at FIFO and mining aerodromes.



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