Australia has introduced a series of changes to the way military airspace operates in the country following a two-year review designed to deliver more flexible and efficient airspace usage. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority says the changes are designed to provide civilian access to military access when safety and operational factors allow it.

Under the changes, existing military restricted areas have been reclassified as "conditional status", which has three variants that indicate to civilian pilots how accessible the active military airspace is.

Conditional status RA 1 is military airspace that civilian pilots can flight plan through or expect clearances through when it is active, with a notice to pilots to be issued if this is not the case. Conditional status RA 2 means that civilian operators cannot plan or expect clearance through the airspace when it is active, although tracking may be offered by air traffic control. Conditional status RA 3 is military airspace where civilian access is never available for civilian flights, other than in an emergency.

The military will now activate airspace by issuing a NOTAM, rather than previously whereby the reverse was the case and military airspace was active and deactivated by NOTAM.

The changes, which were developed by a joint working group comprising Defence, CASA, Airservices Australia and industry, meet one of the requirements of the government's Aviation White Paper which is seeking to improve aviation safety through a more effective, efficient and responsive flexible use airspace. The White Paper called for increased harmonisation of civil and military air traffic management, which is under way. Airservices Australia says its Air Traffic Control Future Systems programme, which is replacing the existing ageing ATM platform, is closely co-ordinated with the Department of Defence's Project Air 5431, which is aiming to replace the existing defence ATM platform. The harmonisation activities are overseen by the Australian Civil-Military ATM Committee (AC-MAC), which is also overseeing the development of a joint National ATM Surveillance Infrastructure Plan which aims to ensure optimal use of civil and military resources in providing surveillance for ATM.

An earlier harmonisation effort was the joint Airservices-DoD Project Genesis which was aimed at integrating civil and defence ATM. The first implementation was at Perth international airport in Western Australia, in 2006, combining ATC services for Pearce Royal Australian Air Force Base and Perth and Jandakot airports, but that project failed to progress.

Source: Flight International