Dick Smith has written to the Minister responsible for Aviation, Deputy PM Warren Truss, describing current plans to upgrade Australian air traffic control as “verging on criminal negligence.”

This is very strong language applied to a very important and complex matter, and the body of his letter to Mr Truss, dated 14 July is reproduced at the end of this report.

Plane Talking isn’t going to try and take readers on a fair and balanced examination of the issues, which deserve discussion in those publications and forums supported by general aviation users and private aircraft owners like Mr Smith who have some real concerns about their impact on their livelihoods, businesses and investments.

The issues are deeply technical, although efforts have been made by Mr Smith, and those who disagree with him, to reduce the arguments to newspaper story sized reports with big picture terminology. Or at times a sort of ‘Yes, No, Yes, No’ discussion that almost nobody not intimately involved in aviation will understand.

In my opinion, Mr Smith’s case has merit in that there is an issue of potential mismanagement of the changes and thus the money that it will largely cost the industry rather than the taxpayer in these user-pays days. The goal of AirServices Australia, to achieve an integrated military civilian control system with the catchy and original title of OneSky, for one nation, is noble, but if Mr Smith is right, nobly screwed in its proposed implementation.

This whole issue has been fought in intricate detail behind the paywall on The Australian already, although it isn’t clear just how many of any of those readers who haven’t given up on the saga could pass a written examination to test their comprehension of the issues.

MH370, the financial performances of Qantas and Virgin Australia, airline seating atrocities, and whether or not passengers using the new Sydney Airport should pass through a terminal resembling a cross fit training box would score much higher in reader engagement.

But to be serious, the main problem Dick Smith will have with this Minister, or any other, is that Ministers in Australia always take the advice of their departments, which are always protective of pet projects, even when they are flawed or incompletely planned.

Perhaps some of the relevant air safety experts in the FAA should be enticed into doing a quick audit of the OneSky project to a deadline of say four weeks in which they review potential safety or efficiency related scenarios raised by Mr Smith and then make a recommendation to the government as to whether it should pause or amend its implementation to resolve any show stoppers.

This would have the added benefit of deferring any interest the FAA may have in auditing the general performance of the Australian safety regulator CASA and failing it, with dire consequences for Australian flag carriers.

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