• The GFA administers gliding operations right across Australia. (Steve Hitchen)
    The GFA administers gliding operations right across Australia. (Steve Hitchen)

The Gliding Federation of Australia (GFA) has criticised Airservices Australia over the consultation process used for the Class E airspace proposal.

The proposal, if implemented, would see the base of the Class E airspace between Cairns and Melbourne lowered from 8500 feet AMSL to 1500 feet AGL, removing a significant amount of Class G airspace.

Consultation on the proposal closed last Monday after only three weeks.

In a letter sent to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Michael McCormack on Monday, GFA President Steve Pegler said that the Airservices proposal lacked information and the GA community wasn't given enought time to prepare submissions.

"Engagement with Airservices Australia is usually timely and appropriate," Pegler points out. "However, in the case of this proposal to lower Class E on the east coast the GFA was surprised and alarmed that it was announced on the Airservices website without an industry warning, with only a small amount of information, and with a short time frame for consultation and a seemingly large impact on our operations.

"Normal consultative forums for airspace changes were not informed in advance."

Pegler stated in the letter that the GFA believed Airservices had circumvented proper consultation procedure including government guidelines.

"The absence of a Regulatory Impact Statement, with inputs from all aviation sectors, for a proposal with far-reaching impacts on access to airspace and regulatory compliance overheads, is also of concern. The government’s own regulatory best practice guidelines require stakeholder consultation and a Regulatory Impact Statement where any change in access, costs and regulatory burden for compliance and management will occur.

"This proposal will have massive cost and regulatory compliance impacts on many general, recreational and sporting aviation enterprises in Australia, with a particularly heavy impact in regional areas ...

"The information on this proposal is not sufficient in detail to thoroughly evaluate the merits and risks and provide constructive feedback at this time."

Pegler asked the minister to intervene and force Airservices to modify the consultation and regulatory change process.

The GFA was one of the first associations to speak out against the proposal, citing the need for motor gliders and tugs to use radio in Class E, carry and use transponders and the difficulty in monitoring more than one frequency.

Consultation on the proposal closed last Monday after more than 1000 submissions were made.

"Responses detailed a wide range of insights from all aspects of industry, including airlines, industry associations and general aviation operators," an Airservices spokesperson told Australian Flying.

"We are now assessing all feedback received to input into our detailed design process, and in particular are revising our proposal to address ... key issues highlighted in the feedback."

Airservices has said that issues raised in submissions include:

  • continued access to Class G airspace by VFR aircraft have no transponder and/or radio
  • consideration for operations where the new Class E base could result in safety being compromised due to terrain or weather
  • confusion in relation to the airspace boundary reference to AGL versus AMSL
  • operational complexity, workload, communication/coordination, training and education for both air traffic controllers and pilots
  • reduced surveillance and communications coverage gaps within controlled airspace
  • reduce the likelihood of delays on departures and arrivals
  • clarify the safety case for change, with consideration to cost/benefit implications to stakeholders impacted by the proposal
  • not enough time for the industry to consider the implications of the change.

"We are currently considering next steps based on this feedback, including how best to refine the detailed design and we will provide an update to industry in the week starting 22 February via our Engage platform," Airservices Australia said.

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