FAILURE 3: THE CASE FOR SAFETY?
Airservices has said all along that the primary reason for implementing the new flight paths is to improve safety.
Complainants have been repeatedly discouraged from exercising their rights because the change has been made 'for safety reasons'. Every communication is prefaced with the phrase 'safety must be the first priority'.
But is the new flight path actually safer?
While we are not air traffic management experts, we believe that Airservices's promotion of the safety benefits of the new routes is overstated, and does not justify ignoring the potential environmental harms.
The facts are:
- SIDs and STARS are a one-size fits all approach which have the potential to reduce complexity but, like all automated systems, also reduce flexibility to manage unexpected situations
- Air traffic at Hobart Airport has actually been trending down for the last 5 years, while traffic at nearby Cambridge Airport (not subject to SIDs and STARs) has dramatically increased in the same period, thereby increasing the need for flexibility
- Hobart Airport is well-known for its unpredictable winds and strong turbulence
- In a recent study, CASA found that Hobart has an extremely low level of safety incidents compared with similar airports, with no fatalities in its 60 year history prior to the introduction of SIDs and STARs
- No quantifiable analysis has been undertaken of the safety benefits of SIDs and STARs for Hobart
- While CASA recommended that Airservices progress its proposal to implement SIDs and STARs, it did not require an urgent implementation and has not consulted with air traffic control staff in Hobart.
- Local ATC staff in Hobart did not agree that SIDs and STARs were the best option for Hobart
We also know that Airservices has recently undergone significant job cuts, with almost 20% of staff becoming redundant in the last two years. The main benefit of SIDs and STARs is to Airservices's Melbourne air traffic control centre which has the job of integrating flights to and from Hobart into the paths around the rest of Australia. We believe this is the real reason SIDs and STARs have been introduced: to make life easier for Melbourne, and to cope with reduced staff numbers, using safety as an excuse.
If SIDs and STARs really have made Hobart Airport safer, Airservices should have an evidence-based business case which clearly demonstrates the safety benefits. Airservices has failed to make the case for safety.