Saturday, January 05, 2008

Upside Down Down Under

Crikey !

”Airspace over Townsville, Cairns, Mackay, Coolangatta south to Coffs Harbour, central Australia, western NSW and Launceston has been uncontrolled at times during the past month.”

”Airlines are told when airspace is not controlled and they must decide whether to continue flying through the area. “

”When airspace is uncontrolled, pilots must regularly broadcast their identification, route, position and altitude. Most large planes also carry computerised collision avoidance systems as a "last resort"“

”A Qantas pilot, who declined to be named, compared the air traffic control situation in Australia to Africa.

"The fact that nothing has happened is down to the pilots and the air traffic controllers doing the best they can with what they've got," he said. “

The quotes are from The Courier-Mail in Brisbane, Australia.

Now, keep in mind, this is the type of system that the Free Marketeers were trying to sell us just a few months ago. This paper from The Heritage Foundation is pretty typical.

”...the United States is far behind countries such as Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, and Argentina which have privatized airports, air traffic control systems, passenger rail, and public transit (both rail and bus service),... “

We’re “far behind” huh ? Seems to me, we’re in the same boat. We’re both critically short of air traffic controllers. As a matter of fact, I’ve been looking at the ATC section of The Professional Pilots Rumor Network and it seems as if there is a worldwide shortage of air traffic controllers. America, Australia, Ireland,’s an interesting list.

Here’s a question for the Free Marketeer crowd. Tell me again how the law of supply and demand works ? Doesn’t a low supply and high demand mean that the price goes up ? Then why are the wages being paid to controllers going down ? Isn’t that a little upside down ?

Thanks to my friends Down Under for all the tips.

There is one other area we have in common. From The Courier Mail story again:

”Spokesman Terry O'Connor admitted there was a shortage of trained controllers but he rejected claims of mismanagement and said safety was not at risk.

"We're aware of the issues they have raised – it's something that's been a potential concern for us for some months," he said. "We wrote to our airline customers about these shortages a couple of months ago and CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) is aware of it as well."

But CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said he was not aware of a shortage of trained staff.

"Shortages is the job of Airservices Australia to manage," Mr Gibson said. “

No one (supposedly) in charge wants to accept responsibility for the mess they’ve created. Don’t worry too much though. I’m sure we all share one other thing in common -- the controllers of Australia (and the rest of the world) will do everything humanly possible to make sure the public stays safe. That is something you might want to keep in mind when your government (wherever you live in the world) tells you they’re going to replace humans with machines.

Don Brown
January 5, 2008

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