Australian transport minister Mark Vaile has delayed the closure, scheduled for later this month, of the Flightwatch VHF radio transmitting system. The move comes after aviation campaigner Dick Smith threatened Airservices Australia with legal action, alleging the move had not been subject to appropriate industry consultation and a safety-benefit study. Flightwatch provides weather and other safety information to pilots throughout Australia.

Smith, a former Civil Aviation Safety Authority chairman, says the system has contributed to high levels of safety for the past 50 years and that the decision has been made in "virtual secrecy" in a bid to save A$500,000 ($445,0000).

Airservices, however, says that it determined there was no rationale for maintaining a separate VHF Flightwatch frequency. Instead, the service is being transferred to the air traffic control environment and will be provided using existing high-frequency and lower sector airspace air traffic control VHF frequencies. The decision process went through the consultation and safety management system, it says.

Smith says that the move would pose a danger to air safety as pilots using frequencies for Flightwatch could be blocked by others requiring landing and separation.

Vaile has delayed the move to allow his department to investigate it further.

Source: Flight International