Tristan Swanwick - 01 January 2008 http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,22995947-953,00.html
PILOTS have lashed out at the lack of air traffic controllers as a "national disgrace" as airline authorities defend the nation's safety standards.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority indicated the volume of flights in the nation's booming aviation industry could be restricted if supervision levels were not satisfactory.
The Courier-Mail revealed yesterday increased air travel was putting a strain on an air control system already at breaking point.
Air space over some of the nation's most populated areas has been left uncontrolled because of a lack of controllers, forcing pilots to rely on their broadcasts and computers to avoid collisions.
Pilots have taken to internet forums to vent their frustration at the level of ground-based supervision after the controllers' union accused Airservices Australia of not training enough staff.
"It's a national disgrace that capital city international airports have insufficient ATC staff," one pilot said.
"This cannot continue for too much longer before safety is compromised. Surely it's time for all parties to sit down and figure out a solution."
Another pilot said the public and authorities would be alarmed if they "suddenly realise that all these thin aluminium tubed airliners are zipping around 10km up in -50C temperatures at 800km/h without anyone trying to ensure they don't bump into each other".
A Qantas pilot, who declined to be named, described the pilots' Traffic Information Broadcast by Aircraft procedures as "very, very basic".
"With TIBA, all you do is make a broadcast saying 'I'm here, I'm going in this direction'," he told The Courier-Mail.
"Someone else will say 'I'm here, I'm going in this direction', and you just try to take care of yourself."
CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said the industry watchdog would ensure safety standards were maintained.
"We certainly won't let safety be put in jeopardy," he said.
"If (Airservices) don't have enough air traffic controllers, they're not going to be able to do as much air-traffic controlling."
Airservices Australia, a government-owned corporation, said the safety of pilots and passengers was not at risk.