Australian air navigation service provider Airservices Australia is calling for the "urgent fitment" of automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) equipment to the country's fly-in, fly-out mining charter fleet - particularly in Western Australia - in light of the "explosive growth" in the sector.

Airservices chief executive officer Greg Russell said the growth in fly-in, fly-out operations is an immediate challenge to the service provider. Until now, Airservices has been using traditional procedural separation standards in managing regional airspace in Western Australia, particularly in the northwest of the state, where most of the mines are located.

However, the system is now close to capacity: "The industry is telling us that significantly more growth is going to occur in fly-in, fly-out operations in the next two to three years," Russell said. "Put simply, this cannot occur safely without a major change to the surveillance picture so we can see the aircraft involved, and that involves a programme of urgent fitment of ADS-B."

Australia has nationwide ADS-B coverage above flight level 300 (30,000ft/9,144m), and Airservices has long been keen to extend the programme below FL300. The company said it is in discussions with operators on the issue, and they are receptive to ADS-B.

The service provider held a regional safety forum to review current and future demand issues in Western Australia earlier this month, attended by more than 30 representatives of the mining and resources industry, airlines, charter operators and Perth airport.

Russell said in order to "buy some time" Airservices is installing a transportable radar in Paraburdoo, which will provide coverage of six airports within 100km (62 miles).

The growth of fly-in, fly-out operations is also putting a strain on Perth airport. Although the airport is currently operating at about a third of its capacity, the rostering of mining operations means there is major departure congestion between 05:30 and 08:00 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

"Aircraft leave and return to Perth in large waves, which exacerbate issues with ground infrastructure and cause lengthy delays," Russell added.

Perth airport is undertaking a Australian dollar 500 million ($515 million) redevelopment, including construction of Terminal WA - which will primarily cater for the resource sector's fly-in, fly-out market.

Over a million passengers are expected to use the terminal in its first year of operations in 2013.

How Airservices fixes the issues in Western Australia will provide lessons for other parts of the country, Russell said - with mining projects growing in Queensland and South Australia.

Source: Flight International