Earlier this week the chief commissioner of the ATSB, Martin Dolan, told a Senate Estimates hearing that he had decided not to investigate a three hour radar black out at Melbourne’s main airport at Tullamarine and the nearby smaller corporate and general aviation airport at Essendon.

Instead Mr Dolan explained that the ATSB had taken the word of AirServices Australia that there was nothing in the fact that for this prolonged period there could have been losses of separation assurance between aircraft arriving or departing from the two airports on 13 February this year.

Senator Xenophon (above) and Commissioner Dolan at Estimates hearing

This troubling state of affairs is revealed in a video clip of the Estimates hearing concerned during exchanges between Mr Dolan and the independent South Australian senator, Nick Xenophon.

That radar black out in February this year was described in this ABC News report, which follows severe criticism of Mr Dolan’s management of the botched ATSB report into the 2009 Pel-Air crash near Norfolk Island, and growing concern that the ATSB has mismanaged the south Indian Ocean sea floor search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 southwest of Perth.

The video is further compelling evidence that the ATSB has lost the plot when it comes to reliably and consistently performing its duty to investigate safety issues affecting air travel in this country.

There can be few more serious threats to air safety in this country than having passengers jets using a major airport being deprived of information about other aircraft using a smaller airport in their vicinity and for a prolonged period.

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