Virgin pilots call for air traffic control inquiry

737-800_VH-YFL_SYDNEY_12MAY2013_SETH JAWORSKI-2
photo – Seth Jaworkski

One of the unions representing Virgin Australia pilots has called for a government inquiry into Australia’s air traffic control systems.

The Virgin Independent Pilots Association (VIPA) says federal infrastructure minister Warren Truss needs to hold a comprehensive and independent inquiry into the management of Australian airspace.

VIPA executive director Simon O’Hara says the government needed to look at the “extent that we may need to examine one traffic control system for Australian airspace”.

“VIPA is now calling on Minister Truss to review and replace the current ATC system with a new air traffic system which better manages the separation of aircraft in controlled airspace,” O’Hara said in a statement.

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) report released in October 2013 found a higher rate of loss of separation (LOS) incidents at airports where air traffic control was administered by military air traffic services (ATS).

“Military ATS were involved in a disproportionate number of loss of separation occurrences involving civilian aircraft in terminal area airspace relative to the amount of traffic they control,” the ATSB report said.

“Military ATS are responsible for about 25 per cent of the aircraft movements in terminal areas, but were involved in 36 per cent of LOS occurrences in terminal areas.”

O’Hara said VIPA was deeply concerned by the report’s findings, which highlighted a number of serious safety issues regarding Australia’s current ATC system.

“Safety is paramount for Australian airline passengers and the government cannot continue sit on this report for any longer,” O’Hara said.

“The Minister must act before it’s too late.”