• Dick Smith addresses the Senate inquiry into the performance of Airservices Australia on 18 August 2015. (Still from official video)
    Dick Smith addresses the Senate inquiry into the performance of Airservices Australia on 18 August 2015. (Still from official video)

Aviation campaigner Dick Smith has questioned Airservices Australia's ADS-B Regulatory Impact Statement [RIS] in front of a Senate inquiry, describing the document as "completely dishonest".

Appearing before the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislative Committee (RRAT) inquiry into Airservices Australia on 18 August, Smith said the mandate to fit ADS-B to IFR aircraft would not provide the cost savings to general aviation stated in the RIS.

"The [RIS] was done six or seven years ago," he said. "It was originally based on the fact that they were going to subsidise general aviation aircraft; they were going to pay for the equipment to go into the general aviation fleet of about 8000 aircraft.

"And that would be the only way you could justify it, because fitting ADS-B equipment has some savings to the airlines when it comes to direct tracking in controlled airspace; that would give them some millions of dollars per year savings, but general aviation really can get no measurable savings out of it."

Senator Nick Xenophon questioned Smith's comments, saying they conflicted with the RIS, which initially claimed that ADS-B would save GA $4.1 million per year in fuel cost.

"The Regulatory Impact Statement is severly flawed," Smith replied. "It is a completely dishonest document."

According to Smith's submission to the inquiry, the cost savings to GA are more likely to be around $200,000 annually, making a total cost position to general aviation of negative $62.2 million.

Smith blamed both Airservices Australia and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority for hiding the truth about the RIS from Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss. Smith also stated that he had spoken to CASA Chairman Jeff Boyd about the RIS, but had not been able to get the document reviewed.

"The problem is, in 18 months time, the requirement comes in that every single aeroplane in Australia that flies in cloud, and that's every little plane that flies at Bourke or Broken Hill or Bathurst ... will have to spend anything between $10-20,000 in fitting this equipment, but they will get no measureable advantage at all because they are in uncontrolled airspace," Smith told the RRAT.

In February 2017, all IFR aircraft in Australia will have to be fitted with ADS-B. Initially, fitting the system to the fleet was to be subsidised from cost savings achieved by decommissioning en route radars. However, several of the radars had to be replaced before ADS-B was installed in Australia, meaning the subsidy didn't go ahead, but the mandate did.

"It is quite clear that the RIS needs to be reviewed and the Committee should recommend this," Smith said in his submission. "Otherwise, significant and potentially permanent economic damage will be inflicted upon the general aviation industry.

"It should be pointed out that this damage will include reduced safety levels as money is redirected from important safety issues - such as more recency flying and replacement of aging aircraft - to expensive ADS-B fitment where there is no measurable safety increase in uncontrolled airspace."


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