Whilst Airservices Australia's proposal to modify the base of Class E airspace on the eastern seaboard has garnered a lot of feedback traffic, there has been very little chatter surrounding another part of the modernisation program: SAFIS.
Surveillance Aerodrome Flight Information Service (SAFIS) is set to be implemented at two non-towered airports mid year if the proposal goes ahead unchanged. The two airports–Ballina/Byron Gateway in NSW and Mangalore in Victoria–are both heavy-traffic airports that Airservices believes warrant greater situational awareness that just CTAF procedures.
SAFIS will amalgamate Flight Information Service (FIS) in the surrounding Class G and Surveillance Information Service (SIS) to achieve what Airservices says will be an increase in safety at those airports.
A key aspect of SAFIS is a Mandatory Broadcast Area (MBA) of dimensions specific to the airport it applies to, in which Air Traffic Control will apply SAFIS without changing the designation of the surrounding airspace.
For Ballina/Byron, the MBA is expected to be a radius of 15 nm up to 8500 feet AMSL, and for Mangalore 20 nm radius up to 8500 feet AMSL.
All aircraft operating into and out of Ballina/Byron or Mangalore will be required to broadcast on the CTAF, with ATC providing a full traffic information and alerting service based on surveillance data and pilot reporting on the same frequency. SIS will be extended to VFR flights only if workload permits.
According to Airservices, introducing SAFIS will:
- improve safety for RPT and other operations by reducing complexity
- improve safety for RPT at regional airports by using appropriate levels of airspace classification and services
- provide international consistency
- foster equitable airspace access for all users
- improve the value of investments such as ADS-B and ACAS
- facilitate continuous descent operations
- provide controlled airspace containment and separation for IFR.
Ballina/Byron is a busy RPT airport that has more than 5000 movements each year, and is a mix of heavy commerical, GA and recreational traffic. Since, the ATSB has investigated seven breakdowns of traffic separation, the most recent being a conflict between an A320 and a Jabiru J230 in November last year.
Mangalore north-east of Melbourne is the home to a flight training academy and hosts one of the few VORs left in Victoria available for IFR training. In January 2020, four people were killed south of Mangalore in a mid-air collision between a Piper Seminole and a Beech Travel Air. The ATSB has yet to issue the final investigation report.
Breakdowns of separation at Mangalore occured in January 2021 and September 2011.
The new SAFIS system is set to be introduced in May-July 2021.