12 September 2007
Mr Dick Smith AO
PO Box 418
Terrey Hills NSW 2084
Thank you for your letter dated 21 February 2007 to the Hon Mark Vaile MP, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services, concerning the FLIGHTWATCH service provided by Airservices Australia from the Australian Flight Information Centre (AUSFIC) in Brisbane. I apologise for the delay in replying.
Airservices Australia has advised me that in 2006 it conducted a review of FLIGHTWATCH and determined that there was no rationale for a separate Very High Frequency (VHF) FLIGHTWATCH frequency and that the existing VHF FLIGHTWATCH service could be effectively and more efficiently provided utilising existing High Frequency (HF) and lower sector airspace air traffic control (ATC) VHF frequencies.
The review of the existing VHF FLIGHTWATCH function was undertaken by Airservices in accordance with its safety management system.
I am advised that from 20 August 2007, between the hours of 8am and 11am (AEST), Monday to Friday, the FLIGHTWATCH service has been available on HF and ATC Flight Information Area VHF frequencies. From 27 September 2007, the HF and lower sector airspace VHF frequencies will become the permanent frequencies for all FLIGHTWATCH services, with an anticipated completion date for the majority of air traffic control sectors of late October 2007.
Airservices Australia believes that transferring the service to the air traffic control environment has several benefits. It will enable pilots operating in Class E and Class G airspace access to flight information and alerting service on the same air traffic control frequency they would use to monitor other aircraft activity in their vicinity. Airservices also believe that this will enable the provision of enhanced collision hazard information and improved situational awareness. Savings to industry of up to $500,000 are anticipated.
I have noted your comments in relation to the differences between the way in which Flight Information Service is provided in the United States and the way in which it is provided in Australia.
I am advised by Airservices Australia that industry consultation will be by way of an information sheet advising of the consolidation of FLIGHTWATCH frequencies into the air traffic control environment. Notification of all details of specific frequency transfer or deactivation and associated dates will follow in the form of Aeronautical Information Publications (AIP) Supplements. I understand that wider industry input was not sought because the change was largely within Airservices and does not represent any loss of service or increased cost to the industry.
I do apologise for the long delay in getting a reply to you on this subject. This was due to administrative errors in my department. At the same time I would like to assure you that I do appreciate your interest in this matter and thank you for the time and effort that you have taken to keep me informed on your perspective across a wide range of aviation matters.
Thank you once again for raising this matter with me.