Source: ABC News (www.abc.net.au) | 21 May 2008
Low pay 'forcing air traffic controllers out of jobs'
The former chair of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) says there is a dangerous shortage of air traffic controllers in Australia.
Air Services Australia says planes flying between Sydney and Brisbane flew without air traffic control on Saturday because staff at the Brisbane tower called in sick.
It meant that flights were not monitored between Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay from 5:00pm (AEST) to 11:00pm (AEST) and pilots were forced to communicate with each other by radio to avoid accidents.
Entrepreneur Dick Smith says low pay rates are forcing air traffic controllers out of jobs.
"It's just unacceptable, we have a situation where the tower at Launceston has been basically closed down because of not enough staff and there have been safety incidents there," he said.
"Avalon airport, which has over a million passengers a year, doesn't have any air traffic control in the tower at all."
Air Services Australia says the use of radio communication between planes when control towers are closed is an internationally accepted practice.