AM - Friday, 19 December ,
Reporter: Ben Knight
The politics of domestic aviation
is once again in the air this morning.
The air traffic controllers union
is being accused of scare-mongering,
after a Transport Safety Bureau
investigation found there was no
near miss near Melbourne Airport
two weeks ago.
At the time, the Air Traffic Controllers
Association claimed a Virgin passenger
jet and a smaller Cessna had come
within 20 seconds of colliding -
a direct result of the Government's
new airspace system, it was claimed.
But the Bureau's report says that
while the aircraft were close, there
was no threat to their safety at
Ben Knight reports.
BEN KNIGHT: On December the 4th,
a Virgin Blue 737 was flying into
Melbourne from the Gold Coast when
its collision avoidance system alerted
the crew to a smaller aircraft in
The Virgin jet slowed its descent,
the pilots kept their eyes on the
Cessna, and both aircraft landed
According to the air traffic controllers
union, Civil Air, it was a near
miss, and the planes had come within
20 seconds of colliding.
President Ted Lang said it was more
proof that the Federal Government's
new airspace system should be scrapped.
TED LANG: What is it going to take
for people to understand that what
we've introduced here simply doesn't
work in this country. It is not
a safe operating environment for
our travelling public.
BEN KNIGHT: It could have come at
a worse time for the Minister, John
Anderson. The new airspace system
had only been operating for a week,
and was already under intense pressure
from pilots and air traffic controllers.
But an investigation into this alleged
incident by the Transport Safety
Bureau has found that there was
no threat to the safety of either
The Cessna did come close to the
737. At one point, there was as
little as 400 feet of vertical space
between them, while they were less
than two nautical miles apart. But
both planes had been flying under
the instructions of air traffic
control long before that.
Alan Stray, the Deputy Director
of the Transport Safety Bureau,
says even though the planes came
close to each other in the air,
there's been no breach of the rules.
ALAN STRAY: In that airspace, there's
no proscribed separation standard
applicable, therefore there was
no infringement of separation standards
and there was not the technical
term of an airprox (air proximity).
BEN KNIGHT: Can I take that to mean
that because there is no standard,
they could have come, technically,
within inches of each other and
there would still be no breach?
ALAN STRAY: Well technically, there
is no separation standard applicable.
BEN KNIGHT: But Ted Lang says it's
the lack of rules unde the new system
that has caused the problem.
TED LANG: If an aircraft can operate,
commercial aircraft can operate
within 300 feet and two nautical
miles of another aircraft and call
that safe, it simply is insanity.
BEN KNIGHT: A spokesman for John
Anderson says the union and the
Opposition have been scare-mongering,
and has called for an apology, but
Ted Lang has in turn called on the
Minister to again listen to the
TED LANG: Unfortunately, we've never
been given the opportunity to see
the Minister. We've offered an alternative
solution, and we think the alternative
solution has some merit and for
him to ignore it again is simply
DAVID HARDAKER: Ted Lang, the President
of Civil Air, the air traffic controllers
union, ending that report from Ben