Flight paths lead to increase in safety incidents

The Australian - 19 May.jpg

It was revealed in the Weekend Australian on Saturday that, rather than making air travel to and from Hobart Airport safer, Airservices's new flight paths have led to an increase in safety incidents.

Two post-implementation review reports have detailed serious flaws in the implementation of the paths, with the timing primarily driven by a need to relocate the VOR navigation beacon to accommodate the airport's runway extension - not by safety as Airservices claims.

We have obtained copies of the reports referred to in the article which can be downloaded here:

Hobart SID/STAR Safety Post Implementation Review Report – Volume 1 , effective 4th November 2017. Initial report prepared by Air Traffic Controller - West.

Introduction of RNP 1 SIDS/STARS at Hobart Post Implementation Review (PIR), 4th December 2017. Final version of second report from consultant.

The key findings of the two reviews are:

  • Timing of the rollout was rushed to accommodate temporary relocation of a navigation beacon due to runway works, not because of safety
  • Staff were not adequately trained for the rollout, and concerns that it would increase workload on Hobart controllers were ignored
  • The implementation was led by a manager who did not have sufficient skills or experience
  • Procedures built up over years to safely separate aircraft were removed, and aircraft without equipment to fly the new paths cannot be readily separated from those that can
  • Even aircraft which do have the right technology are often unable to meet the altitude requirements necessary to stay safely on the new paths, leading to a spike in safety incidents
  • There is a high risk of collision at a new crossover point established by the paths, and there have already been two 'loss of separation' incidents involving passenger jets as a result. Prior to September, there had been no such incidents at Hobart for at least 9 years.
  • Rules to safely separate aircraft travelling at different speeds in sequence were not implemented, increasing the risk of a 'rear-end' collision
  • Airline operators are not happy with new paths because of the increased track miles, and extra fuel and time used

These would appear to be serious matters, not 'teething issues' as suggested by Airservices's response to the article.

The reports find that none if any of the proposed safety benefits have been realised and recommend urgent introduction of longitudinal separation standards, reactivation of the navigation beacon and a return to visual flight paths to bring safety back to an 'acceptable level'. None of these measures has been implemented.

Airservices has consistently maintained that the paths were introduced to improve safety, and has refused to return to pre-September paths on this basis. Although hypothetically SIDs and STARs can improve consistency, the Hobart experience has proved this theory false. The evidence shows that the implementation of SIDs and STARs has failed and that flying in and out of Hobart is less safe than before.

Airservices has not only failed to consult the community or its airline customers, it did not listen to the advice of its own expert staff, and completely botched the implementation process in a rush to meet a construction deadline - not for safety. This has resulted in ongoing harm to communities, dangerously stressed air traffic controllers, longer flights and reduced passenger safety.

It is now more important than ever that Airservices revert back to the pre-September paths. Airservices has covered up these safety breaches in order to avoid embarrassment. It has shown it cannot be trusted on safety, and is prepared to overlook its first priority of safety .

We need immediate action from CASA to sort out this mess, not a year long review by Airservices hoping the problem will go away.