On the eve of April Fool’s Day the Federal Government removed without explanation a ground based quasi-air traffic management radio service at Port Macquarie, Wagga Wagga, Dubbo, Hervey Bay and Olympic Dam.

The purpose of the UNICOM system which was introduced as a trial last October was, in blunt terms, to shield the government from the uproar that will follow a collision between a passenger jet and a general or sports aviation aircraft.

Australia has tolerated, at airline insistence, the criminally insane mixing of scheduled passenger aircraft and smaller objects where Virgin Blue, Qantaslink, and REX pilots can never know with certainty the location of other traffic.

Port Macquarie, for example, is a complete circus, with 78-seat jets and turbo-props of up to 72 seats capacity sharing the vicinity of the strip with parachutists, ultralight pilots, float planes, private aircraft and flying schools which do a good business with students from non-English speaking countries.

The official position, repeated ad nauseam by the previous government, this government, CASA and AirServices Australia, that a policy of “see and be seen” or “listen and be heard” is perfectly safe, is ridiculous and could end in terrible carnage.

The opposition, which appointed all the dead wood bureaucrats that still call the shots in the Rudd Government’s transport related departments, joined the government in running dead on this issue when challenged by Robert Oakshott the Independent member for Lyne.

Oakshott said, “At Port Macquarie they employed four people on a part-time basis, providing training, computers and radio equipment, all as recognition of the safety needs and increased dangers of a growing regional airport”.

“For them to drop this step forward, with no explanation, is irresponsible government, and is playing with people’s lives all to save a dollar.”

In fact, closer to 50 cents per seat per landing and take off, in costs that are recovered from the airlines.

The non-separation of regional passenger flights from other traffic hazards has the clear potential to kill on a large scale.

There is no excuse for ignoring this issue or allowing such controllable dangers to persist. And there will be no where to hide if this gambling with lives fails.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off