Australian government issues sharp criticism of air traffic control provider

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A report produced by Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is highly critical of the nation's air traffic control services monopoly, Airservices Australia.

The report says that between 2003 and 2012, CASA issued 233 non-compliance notices to Airservices.

CASA says a majority of issues and recommendations are related to Airservices' management responsibilities.

The confidential report was originally published in January 2013. A copy was later obtained by Australia's ABC news organisation under the country's Freedom of Information act, and ABC provided links to the full text of the document.

The report makes 35 recommendations, most related to Airservices' safety management system and management supervision at some air traffic services (ATS) locations.

"The recurring nature of the [non-compliance notices] suggests Airservices' senior management is either unaware of issues or has not taken sufficient action to address the root causes," CASA says.

CASA's criticisms cover areas such as staffing levels, training, supervision of air traffic controllers, safety management, breakdown of separation incidents, traffic information broadcasts by aircraft (TIBA) incidents, and "the ability to provide ATS" in general.

CASA indicates that deficiencies in management supervision of safety and personnel likely caused a spike in breakdown of separation and loss of separation occurrences in late 2011 and early 2012. This caused "increased public concern and media exposure".

Staffing shortfalls, CASA notes, resulted in a greater frequency of TIBA procedures being implemented.

"The frequency of the implementation of TIBA procedures due to individual air traffic controllers being unable to attend work makes a compelling case that there is inadequate resourcing or management of ATS staffing."

In addition, CASA questions Airservices' ability to keep process and procedures current as well as its ability to monitor performance internally and effect improvements.

"The recurring nature of the [non-compliance notices] suggests that stronger regulatory action is required by CASA to ensure that Airservices takes sufficient action to address the root causes of the instances of non-compliance," CASA says.