The new system is damaging Hobart Airport’s safety record
Hobart Airport had a good safety record prior to September 2017. In a February 2017 report, CASA found that the “the number of loss of separation assurance incidents for the airspace around Hobart are very low”.
Following initial implementation of the new system in September 2017, Hobart Airport suffered an unprecedented spike in incidents, with 11 reported incidents in 3 months, including two “loss of separation” events involving commercial passenger jets.
As a result of the safety problems, CASA placed Hobart Airport in the highest risk category.
Airservices has tried to fix the problem, temporarily bringing back manual control and reviewing the paths to determine what went wrong. This solution is short-term and labour-intensive, and the paths are still less safe. The problem lies with the system, which is designed for small regional airports with little jet traffic.
Like most automated processes, the system doesn’t have the flexibility to cope with the type of out of-the-ordinary situations that frequently occur in Hobart, such as bad weather, emergencies or other unscheduled events, like bushfires.
Many light aircraft can’t use the system because they don’t have the necessary GPS equipment. Air traffic controllers can’t ‘see’ these aircraft, because, unlike every other capital city and major airport in Australia, Hobart doesn’t have radar.
Because Airservices removed the ground-based navigation beacon from its procedures, there’s currently no back-up system. We understand this beacon is operational and could be brought back into service at any time.
If the proposed changes progress, Hobart will be left with a system that is less safe than before.
Given the safety problems and the increasing volume of passenger traffic, CASA must immediately review Hobart’s classification as a regional airport.
Airservices must implement a full radar solution to reduce the risk of mid-air collisions between jets and light aircraft which are unable to use the proposed satellite system.
Airservices must also immediately reinstate the ground-based navigation beacon to ensure a safe backup system is available.
Airservices should obtain controlled airspace to the West of the airport to reduce the risk of collisions.
CASA quartely risk review - “Hobart … breaches the AAPS 2018 threshold for Class D aerodromes”
Safety assessment of implementation identifying significant risks - “Although SIDs and STARs are widely used at other aerodromes this is the first introduction at a significant non-surveillance aerodrome. In particular the introduction of the amount of changes at the same time, including the widespread use of GNSS standards and the removal of the VOR/DME [navigation beacon]”.
Hobart SID/STAR Safety Post Implementation Review Report – Volume 1 , effective 4th November 2017. Initial report prepared by a senior mainland-based Air Traffic Controller identifies risks are above acceptable range.
Introduction of RNP 1 SIDS/STARS at Hobart Post Implementation Review (PIR), 4th December 2017. Report from consultant identifies system only safe under ‘normal’ conditions.
Introduction of RNP 1 SIDS/STARS at Hobart Post Implementation Review (PIR), December 2017. Version of consultant report modified by Airservices.
14 Sep 2016 - 14 Feb 2018 - Two reported losses of separation, 9 reported operational deviation (failure to comply with altitude restrictions) post 14 September 2017. Nil in previous year prior to implementation.
Emails from Hobart air traffic controllers
15 December 2017 - Email raising more concerns about inability of flight management systems to meet requirements of new paths - “IFP have been clear that this type of airspace management is legitimate and safe but the evidence is suggesting there is work to be done”
3 Jan 2018 - Email from manager proposing removal of automated control as temporary fix for safety problems - “I need to get something in the system for us until we get time to review the occurrences with the airlines and CASA to try and determine why it is so hard to fly these procedures”
10 Jan 2018 - Email raising concerns that safety incidents are expanding - “Whilst we are looking at local actions to mitigate the potential for loss of separation, had one already, it is concerning that these are occurring with RPT operators not just itinerant. Or non FMS managed aircraft.”
22 Jan 2018 - Email referring to airline concerns about safety issues - “I suspect we all assumed the FMS [on-board flight management system] would simply follow the procedure however reality indicated too many non-compliances to be welcome”
15 Feb 2018 - Email raising concerns about lack of flexibility and increased workload due to new flight path and temporary fix - “That having only one RNP1 SID [departure path] available is problematic is not surprising to anyone working at HB TWR. There needs to be other SID’s available to better manage traffic separation and efficiency”
Federal Court papers
Email from CASA denying knowledge of safety issues arising from new flight paths