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Mon, Oct 20, 2003

Flying Blind Over The Northern Territory?

Australian Controllers Blame Bad Maps

Say you're flying over Australia's Northern Territory, minding your own business when you decide to dial up the controller ahead and get a clearance. Who're you going to call?

Ahhh. Therein lies the rub. Australia's Civil Air, the union representing controllers down under, says maps issued last week don't list proper radio frequencies. "Airspace will be reduced to a dodgem-car track with aircraft using see and avoid procedures and total confusion over radio frequency boundaries," Civil Air president Ted Lang said.

The Sunday Times in Perth reports those new maps are part of a relaxation of Australian airspace, an effort rolled out with distribution of the new maps. But Civil Air says that's really, really bad. Under the new rules, Civil Air says the lack of defined frequency boundaries could cause conflicts between commercial flights operating in Alice Springs and Darwin and GA and charter traffic in those areas.

"Pilots will have no idea which frequencies apply to the boundaries of their airspace," Lang said. "An aircraft on one frequency will never hear collision warnings of another aircraft on a different frequency. It is total guesswork and an undeniable threat to safety - it has become an embarrassing and dangerous farce."

The National Airspace System implementation group - which is responsible for the reforms - rejected claims about compromised safety Saturday. Group executive director Mike Smith said, "It is a misrepresentation. The maps don't have that information, but it is a bit like telling people with window wipers in their cars how and when to use them. These reforms are about enhancing safety."

As far as that bit about flying blind, Smith said the allegation is "simply untrue and incorrect." So why the flap? Smith says the new aviation policies in Australia could mean technology will lower the number of controllers required to run the airspace. That, he suggested, is what the argument is really all about.



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