Three criteria are proposed to help in determining the appropriate airspace classification. The criteria are total number of annual aircraft movements, total annual public transport operation (PTO) aircraft movements and total annual public transport operation (PTO) passengers. When traffic levels at an airport rise to meet the threshold of any one of the criteria it is proposed that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) with consultation with AirservicesAustralia, the air traffic service provider, operators and local authorities will assess whether a change in airspace classification is warranted.
What does this mean for Australian Airports? Currently all airports surrounded by Class D airspace have a control tower staffed by either Defence or Airservices Air Traffic Controllers located at the airport. The proposed criteria for the establishment of Class D services is 80000 annual aircraft movements or 15000 annual PTO aircraft movements or 300000 annual PTO passengers.
The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics 2010 annual statistics nominate these airports as Australia’s top 40 airports ranked by annual aircraft tonnage. Currently 20 of these airports have control towers operated by AirservicesAustralia with 3 others having control towers operated by the Department of Defence. 17 airports currently have no control tower. Aircraft traffic around these airports are assisted by a traffic advisory service from one of major centres either in Brisbane or Melbourne.
According to BITRE 2010 statisics three of the airports without a control tower, Port Hedland (296000), Ayres Rock (277000) and Ballina (280000) are very close to the threshold based on annual PTO passengers. Other airports maybe close or exceed the other two criteria but further statistics are difficult to source.
Currently all Australian airports surrounded by Class C airspace are serviced by a dedicated surveillance service either located at the airport or at one of the major centres as well as a control tower based at the airport. They are all the International Airports plus Canberra, Townsville (by Department of Defence) and Williamtown (by Department of Defence). The proposed criteria for the consideration of a Class C service are 400000 annual movements or 30000 annual PTO movements or 1 million annual PTO passengers. Currently Hobart (1.8 million) and Launceston (1.1 million) exceed the criteria based on annual PTO passengers. Other airports may qualify based on the other two criteria.
The final determination is scheduled to be published in the second half of 2011 with an implementation date of 1 January 2012. If a location exceeds the criteria it only triggers an inquiry by CASA and does not necessary follow that a change of airspace will occur. CivilAir contend that AirservicesAustralia is currently having problems staffing for it's current requirements. To have take on extra obligations will further stretch resources.
Further information is available at http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/aviation/atms/index.aspx