It would appear that CASA has finally been “pushed” into reviewing TIBA (Traffic Information Broadcast Areas). Well done Crikey and Dick Smith.

On the first weekend of increased TIBA monitoring there have been approximately 15 more closures of airspace; mostly short closures for single controller breaks.

On Saturday night there was a single controller on duty (where there would normally be three to control the 4 sectors, they are normally combined on the weekend) between Canberra and Sydney; the airspace was declared TIBA twice during that shift to give the controller a “fatigue/meal” break. Then again on Sunday morning the same sectors were closed.

On Sunday, however, CASA had a representative in the control room monitoring how it works. All reports are that the CASA gent left the room shaking his head, saying “is it like this every time, oh my god.” He requested that the full radar replay be made available to CASA.

It would appear that the first independent review of TIBA from an ATC point of view has concluded that TIBA is not as safe as it would appear on paper. Well, we at the “coal face” are shocked. Shocked that all it took was one simple visit to work out what the controllers have been saying has substance. Where have CASA been? 300+ closures/reductions in the year and they finally take a look after media pressure. CASA is a joke.

TIBA is an accident waiting to happen. Now it appears CASA thinks so too. Most of the problems were not related to international pilots not knowing the procedures, but Australian pilots pushing on regardless to meet their schedules (who needs ATC we’re better off without them, ha ha, wait what’s that?). As for Qantas not flying through TIBA, well only when it suits. The Canberra to Sydney flight had no choice (other than staying in Canberra, or departing to the South and going East or West first) and entered the TIBA Area 30 miles north of Canberra and remained in it until 45 miles from Sydney.

It would appear that ATC contingency plans are not being followed and ‘holes’ are appearing in the safety processes (what safety processes if you don’t follow the assessed plans). We have nice “be safety conscious” posters on the wall and are often reminded about out individual responsibilities; pity the corporation does share this view or responsibility. Wait for it, “we didn’t know” and some LVL 2 or LVL 3 manager will be sacked to save face; too late, GM Safety was sacked early last week; maybe his one-week in replacement will go too?

Bruce Byron stated last week that he didn’t want to hear about controller shortages next year and appears to have given the CEO of ASA, Greg Russell, an ultimatum; Bruce, tip for you, we aren’t 19 short we are 75 short. We are going to lose 20-odd before Christmas, so the 35 people currently being trained, assuming that they all get a licence (which they won’t) will still leave us 60 Short; I guess that’s only 4 short under the fuzzy maths that is being used now by the ASA executive. Bruce, it takes 18 months from off the street to getting a licence, add six months for recruitment. We are in a heap of pain — and there is much more to come.

When “Big Tony” (the Minister) takes his broom out, maybe Bruce Byron should go too along with Greg Russell and the ASA Board; it’s a joke that a first world nation has less ability than most 3rd world nations relating to air traffic control coverage.

Then in other news, the employer presented their ‘desires’ for the upcoming collective agreement. They want to further attack the conditions of employment and have offered no carrots in return for all the sticks they have brought to the table. The above document represents a charter of war to the controllers.

Want to fly at Christmas? Well ‘bone up’ on your TIBA procedures; maybe you can help the pilots out.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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