With aviation advances, you’d think a little thing like fog wouldn’t
stop planes taking off. But it did on 23 June, when planes were
grounded for hours at Sydney and Canberra airports.

I am surprised that no one appears to have
written the story behind the

closure of Sydney and Canberra airports on 23rd

My wife and I spent seven hours waiting to start our holiday at

airport that day so I can appreciate first hand how people feel

the delays.

And it is all unnecessary!

I spotted a pilot
reading a paper next to our gate and thought, I must

ask someone who should
know, why in this day and age an airport is

closed by fog, or weather of any
kind. She, yes she, was quite open

about the reason. Sydney airport will not
invest in category 3

instrumentation, said to cost about 30M, because fogs
are so rare. Tell

that to the businesses that suffered because of the delays
on 23rd June!

It is category 3 instrumentation that is used widely in the

hemisphere to enable airports to operate in all sorts of weather

perhaps snow storms. The planes are all equipped with it but not


I later repeated this information to the ever-patient
service desk staff

of the airline on which I was travelling by saying; “when
will Sydney

airports invest in the necessary instrumentation to prevent

of the event”. Only half jokingly he picked up a phone and handed
it to

me saying. “be my guest”. It appears that the airlines know what must

done but are very careful what they say about their landlord. Not

was there any public service announcement about why we were

that day.

We hear all sorts of stories about how Sydney
airports is gouging the

travelling public with more shopping malls and the
most expensive hourly

parking rate in the world but nothing about this issue.
If it is true

then it is an outrage. Perhaps you have the contacts to find


The problem is (as I’ve mentioned before) that Airservices Australia is
basically a dysfunctional organisation. It is controlled by a workers
collective of unions and the leadership is frightened to do anything which
upsets the union, because the Minister’s main direction is to keep the Minister
out of the news. This means that basically no reforms can ever be

In the UK for example, the actual radar equipment at airports such
as Birmingham and Newcastle are run on a competitive contract basis. In
Australia – just as with the Rescue and Fire Fighting – the Government keeps
Airservices Australia with a monopoly.

Airservices Australia won’t be
able to make any profits (and therefore extra bonuses for their executives) by
putting in a Category 3 landing system. Even if the aircraft are held they
eventually have to land and give the income – even if there has been a

Airservices Australia are presently spending money on leading the
world with a boffin type Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast system out
over the Simpson Desert, where there is absolutely no measurable risk. It is
crazy stuff basically driven by the fact that they want to be able to say, “We
were first in the world.”

They say America has more radar coverage in
Australia. That is so because we have huge areas with virtually no air traffic
and no mountain ranges that aircraft could run into.

It is sad that in
most of Europe, aircraft can do approaches in zero conditions but they can’t do
it here in Australia. It is also sad that no one (other than perhaps me) is
game to say anything about Airservices or criticise them in any way. I
understand the airlines think that if they have the slightest criticism that the
air traffic controllers may go on strike or hold them up even more. It is
interesting because there are only about 1,000 air traffic controllers. They
are highly intelligent and are unlikely to go on strike over such an


Dick Smith

From: Jane Nethercote [mailto:[email protected]]
Tuesday, 4 July 2006 10:25 AM
To: Marilyn
Subject: Attn Dick Smith –
Crikey questions


Peter Fray

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