ATC emerges as a threat to air safety. Something should be done

Source: Crikey 28 July 2008
by Ben Sandilands

It is time for a management clean-out at AirServices Australia as well as Qantas.

AirServices Australia is now emerging as a serious threat not just to public safety, but to Australia’s international reputation.

It is unprecedented for the managements of Qantas and Virgin Blue, and CASA more recently, and ICAO -- the International Civil Aviation Organisation -- to raise concerns about lack of air traffic control over high density areas of our airspace because of staff shortages......

The last time ICAO broke its usually diplomatic reserve in such cases was almost 50 years ago, when the department of civil aviation and the airlines of those days and some senior pilots resisted the installation of black box flight recorders and the costs of weather radar.

Australian aviation has been very, very change resistant for a very long time.

The chief executive officer of AirServices Australia, Gregg Russell, is blaming everything from "renegade" controllers to head-hunting by overseas countries and union demands for his inability to keep the radar consoles manned.

Yet before Russell took it over, AirServices Australia it had a functioning air traffic control system, albeit one that was imperfect, but one that delivered developed world standards of aircraft separation.

The aviation sector is bewildered by the Minister for Infrastructure, Anthony Albanese, saying nothing about this so far except to repeat Mr Russell’s excuses about unionists wanting more money.

Well, of course they want more money. But CEOs earn their money by improving an enterprise, not leaving gaping gaps in the service and dropping the owners, in this case the government, in boiling water.

Russell should review whatever advice he is being given, ask himself who has been misleading the Minister, and insist that the radar consoles be manned, 24/7. If he can't deliver that, he should resign.