Revamped system rolled out and implementation group sets out on countrywide tour to allay safety fears

Australia's National Airspace System (NAS) Implementation Group will begin a countrywide tour in August to make presentations to operators on NAS, which is being introduced this year.

The tour comes as some industry sectors express safety concerns over NAS, which brings US-style procedures and operations to Australia.

The NAS programme will see a major reform of the country's airspace procedures and charting, and follows 10 years of failed attempts to reform Australian airspace. Its supporters say it will simplify procedures, improve safety and reduce operator costs.

The tour will visit all state and territory capitals. Presentations will be given by Mike Smith, executive director of the NAS Implementation Group, and John and Martha King, owners of US flight training company King Schools.

The tour follows criticism of the programme, including from the Western Australia state government, which has warned of "chaos" when it is implemented. The federal government has rejected these concerns, however, with transport minister John Anderson saying NAS will not compromise safety levels and that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority is endorsing every stage of the programme before its introduction.

Australia's Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is supporting NAS, but has raised concerns about how it is being implemented and the possibility of class E airspace extending below 8,500ft (2,590m), which would require ultralights to carry transponders.

Smith says the programme will reduce costs for the Australian aviation industry without jeopardising safety, encourage higher levels of compliance and allow the industry to grow. An independent cost benefit analysis tabled to parliament estimates NAS could provide a financial benefit of about A$70 million ($45 million) a year.

NAS changes have already begun to be implemented. Stage one, including changes to altimetry procedures, took effect in March, and the first part of stage two arrived on 10 July. These changes involved instrument flight rule (IFR) operations in Class E airspace, visual flight rule (VFR) climb or descent and VFR in top.

The second part of stage two is scheduled for 27 November. It includes the requirement for all aircraft operating in class A, B, C and E airspace above 10,000ft to be fitted with a transponder. Aeronautical charting will be simplified, airspace classes will be altered and procedures will be standardised at non-towered aerodromes.

Source: Flight International