Aviation Herald's graphic of the Adelaide incident, linked at bottom of this page.

The day after as many as 600 passenger lives could have been snuffed out by an AirServices Australia blunder involving two Qantas A332s near Adelaide, the unadorned unairbrushed truth about this persistently dangerous and incompetent organisation needs to be taken onboard by the new federal government.

In recent years the ATSB has investigated numerous instances of loss of separation incidents in which air traffic controllers were found to have been incompletely checked or trained for the duties they were undertaking.

It has even in some instances published summaries of field training notes in which the controller at the centre of an incident was deemed unsuitable for the tasks given to him by a management that has persistently failed to adequately resource the service.

Incredibly, the findings in ATSB final reports are released after the final draft is read by all parties and discussed with Airservices, meaning that those reports can hardly be described as unfair or unbalanced.

This is a very dangerous situation not just for Australian airlines and their travellers, but foreign nationals and carriers entrusting their lives and airliners to Australian controlled airspace.

The take away line from this is that Australia is persistently failing to meet the civil aviation obligations that adhere to a supposed tier one state in terms of air safety standards.

This is not a popular position to take. In general, media reporting of AirServices failures is stymied by PR messaging, and a lack of resources in the general media in terms of allowing reporters with a knowledge of aviation issues to take the time to read the actual reports, which often bear little relationship to the anodyne ATSB summaries which can get printed without the real story being picked up.

This is notwithstanding some very incisive individual reporting in the general media. An example of this was the use of FOI by the ABC to uncover CASA’s own damning assessment of the state of affairs in AirServices Australia earlier this year.

As also reported here in relation to the FOI disclosures, and the lies told by AirServices Australia when it lost a Virgin Australia 737:

For years Australia has tolerated a situation in which foreign airlines flying to Australian airports have been denied the safe and efficient air traffic control procedures expected under international safety rules.

One of the truly alarming memes that circulates in incidents like yesterday’s ‘near hit’ near Adelaide is that TCAS, the automated collision avoidance system that is mandatory for airliners and some other aircraft relating to their size and capabilities, would always save the day.

It is deeply troubling that such a notion should gain traction. When airliners infringe the required separation from other aircraft, including those that may not be TCAS equipped, everything depends on adherance to the resolution advisory that one or more aircraft may receive, subject to the split second judgement of the captains of the flights involved.

There is also a concern, at least in some quarters, that the TCAS unit on one of the Qantas A330s may not have been working as intended at the time of the encounter, as reported yesterday.  Qantas hasn’t clarified the situation, indeed it may not know what the truth of that suggestion is at this stage. But while a bit of a worry on the side, it doesn’t change the fact that an incorrect ATC approval was given for one Qantas A330 to climb through the flight level occupied by another Qantas A330 flying directly toward it.

There is no excuse for this. AirServices will kill on a very large scale unless something is done to cut through to the causes of endemic unprofessionalism in its delivery of service and remedy it.

Isolated incidents are one thing. Persistent stuff ups are another.

At the top of this screen is an illustration of the Adelaide incident created by the Aviation Herald. Reading its report concerning this incident is strongly recommended.

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