When approaching to land at a non-tower airport, pilots in Australia are prohibited in many cases from taking the most direct and safest route to the airport. We have the most prescriptive requirements in the world, which actually decrease safety. As an example, a pilot cannot join directly on "base" leg, or fly directly to the airport if not aligned with the runway at least 5 miles out.
For people reading this who may not be pilots, “base” leg is at 90 degrees to the runway, so the pilot would approach at right angles to the runway, then turn left onto final approach to land. “Downwind” leg is parallel to the runway, so a pilot would fly alongside the runway, turn left onto “base”, then left again onto final approach in a sort of U-turn to align with the runway.
In all other modern aviation countries a pilot at a non-tower airport may make a decision to join directly on the “base” leg or on “final” of an unprescribed distance when it is safer to do so. However in Australia we have unique, prescriptive requirements which do not allow pilots to join on the “base” leg at all, so they must either do a U-turn in the sky, or if they choose to do a straight-in approach they must often fly a considerable extra distance to be aligned with the runway at least 5 miles away – even when flying a Tiger Moth or a crop duster.
If you were flying into your own private airfield close to a country town, and the unique Australian requirement of not being able to join on base meant that the extra flying took you over a school in a single engine aircraft, safety is clearly decreased.
In the past, pilots were not permitted to join on final leg at all at non-towered airports. When the change was introduced to allow straight-in approaches, the airlines insisted on this 5 mile requirement. That may be sensible when flying a Boeing 737, but it is not necessary in a Tiger Moth or a Piper Cub to a private airfield with no other traffic. It forces pilots to cover extra distance, possibly over inhospitable terrain or to fly low over a town on approach to land, rather than joining on a shorter final of 1.5 miles or so.
CASA has been stating for many years that they will change our prescriptive requirements to those that are used in other modern aviation countries. This is not only because safety can be improved, but also fuel costs would be reduced as well.
See below the letters that have been written about this – so far there has been no response.