The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has published a discussion paper (DP) on the most appropriate frequency for use at non-CTAF airstrips.
The DP is the result of an aviation community dispute over whether pilots should use Multicom 126.7 or the area VHF frequency when operating from airstrips that have no Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) assigned and are not controlled.
Before May 2013, pilots generally used the Multicom, but CASA issued an Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP), which advised pilots that if the airstrip was not marked on an aeronautical chart, the most appropriate frequency was the area VHF.
"Under regulation 166C of the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988 (CAR), pilots must make a radio broadcast when operating in the vicinity of a non-controlled aerodrome whenever it is reasonably necessary to avoid a collision or the risk of a collision," CASA advises.
"The regulation does not specify which frequency to use, other than ‘the VHF frequency in use for the aerodrome’."
The DP explores only two options:
- Use the Multicom for airstrips marked on charts and the area VHF for when they are not
- Use the Multicom for all low-level VFR ops in Class G.
"The safety benefits and risks associated with each option are discussed in this DP," says CASA. "CASA recognises the valuable contribution that industry consultation makes to the regulatory development process and issues this DP as the basis for CASA to make an informed decision about the appropriate frequency to use at low altitudes in Class G airspace."
The May 2013 change sparked a backlash from the Regional Airspace and Procedures Advisory Committees (RAPAC), which considered CASA had made a change to procedures without consulting the RAPACs or the aviation community.
Objections to the area VHF being promulgated over 126.7 included:
- radio broadcasts cluttering frequencies used by air traffic control (ATC) and commercial passenger aircraft
- lack of area VHF contact with ATC at lower altitudes in rural and remote Australia
- confusion where some aerodromes are printed on one type of chart but not another
- confusion where aerodromes are located close to the area VHF boundaries, particularly when an aircraft can monitor only one frequency.
CASA has given the aviation community until 28 April 2017 to respond to the DP.
Submissions can be made on-line via the CASA website.