The Flightwatch radio network Dick Smith wanted kept open is now in the medical miracle territory of being both dead and alive.
The 29 VHF transmitters at the core of Smith’s concerns remain “on”. But any pilots that try to use the network for important auxiliary flight safety information will be automatically switched to the standard air traffic control network just like Airservices Australia intended.
Or in other words, the infrastructure lives on, but the service has been taken over.
In a deft mid-air manoeuvre yesterday Airservices Australia rescinded its original decision to turn the network off but save the $500,000 it was costing to staff.
This in turn meant that Transport Minister Mark Vaile no longer had to direct it to keep them on in consultation during caretaker mode with shadow minister Martin Ferguson, a subtlety lost in The Australian’s account of an heroic intervention by the leader of the Nationals.
Whatever the ultimate consequences for air safety concerning the alive but dead Flightwatch network, there remains the dormant but dangerous issue of Airservices Australia defying a ministerial direction from Vaile’s predecessor John Anderson to install an approach radar control service in airspace deemed sufficiently busy to be given a “C” classification.
Anderson signed the ministerial directive on July 31, 2004. Airservices Australia defied him, Vaile never prevailed after him.
As air traffic volumes grow over busy regional centres, and faster moving jets like the Embraer 170s being introduced by Virgin Blue become more common in skies populated with smaller, slower aircraft, class C terminal radar services are needed to keep them apart.
Do we want these radars now, or after there are lots of dead people scattered over the countryside?