by Emma Kelly in Perth

Former Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority chairman and aviation reformer Dick Smith is once again threatening legal action over the country’s airspace reform programme.

Smith accuses air traffic services provider Airservices Australia of going against government policy and deciding to halt further implementation of the National Airspace System (NAS) reforms. Airservices rejects Smith’s claim, but acknowledges that the country’s airlines have said there are aspects of NAS they are not happy with and have called for a review.

Smith, who instigated the US-style NAS project after countless stalled reform attempts, has previously threatened Airservices with legal action over NAS. Safety concerns in 2003 resulted in a review of the programme, which revealed that Airservices had not followed correct procedures in its implementation. This resulted in some aspects of NAS being reversed, a process which Smith opposed. Smith later dropped the legal action. Airservices subsequently underwent a government review, which has resulted in a major reorganisation, including 300 job cuts.

In his latest NAS complaint, Smith has written to Australia’s transport minister, Warren Truss, accusing Airservices of “bias or self- interest, disregard for government policy, lip service to appropriate governance arrangements, manipulation within the legal framework”. He says that, at a meeting in late March with airline chief pilots, Airservices “decided that all progress on the NAS implementation would be halted”. NAS was a cabinet-approved programme and Smith calls on the ministry to ensure Airservices complies with government policy. If it is unable to do so, he will initiate court proceedings, he says.

Airservices last week was not commenting on Smith’s letter to the minister, but says that it has no power to reverse a cabinet decision. The country’s Aviation Policy Group (APG), which includes the heads of Airservices, CASA and the air force, recently met and asked airlines for their attitudes to NAS, says Airservices.

The airlines told the APG that they are not happy with aspects of NAS and are not sure whether it is the right way to go in light of current technological developments. Airservices is implementing a nationwide programme of automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast and has recently formed an alliance with Honeywell to develop and commercialise satellite navigation landing systems.

The Ministry of Transport says it is disappointed with Smith’s latest letter, saying that it is looking into issues raised by Smith at a meeting with the minister in April.

Source: Flight International