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Safety Action


Australian Transport Safety Bureau

Previous recommendation history

On 7 June 2004, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) issued the following recommendation to Airservices Australia:


The Australian Transport Safety Bureau recommends that Airservices Australia review the Manual of Air Traffic Services (MATS) amendment decision that removed the mandatory requirement to provide traffic information to aerodrome traffic.

On 23 July 2004, the ATSB received the following response from Airservices Australia:

This is agreed. A MATS amendment process has been initiated regarding the mandatory requirement to provide traffic information to aerodrome traffic. The current instruction is in contravention of the CASR Part 172 Manual of Standards (MOS) and is being rectified. This difference between the MATS and the Part 172 MOS was due to the MATS being amended and updated between the development and the implementation of the MOS.

The ATSB accepted the response and the recommendation remained on 'MONITOR' awaiting incorporation of the MATS amendment.

On 1 September 2005, Airservices Australia amended the MATS to completely remove the previously amended section relating to the provision of aerodrome traffic information.

On 16 September 2005, the Civil Aviation Safety Regulation Part 172 Manual of Standards was amended, after agreement between CASA and Airservices Australia, to state:

When aircraft are operating visually as aerodrome traffic ATC must issue 1 or more of the following:

(a) clearances designed to maintain separation

(b) sequencing instructions

(c) relevant traffic information

On 15 September 2006, the ATSB classified the issue as 'CLOSED - NOT ACCEPTED'.

New recommendation

As a result of this, and other, investigations the Australian Transport Safety Bureau

considers that pilot situational awareness can be limited by controller actions and issues the following safety recommendation:


The Australian Transport Safety Bureau recommends that Airservices Australia review guidance material and training for aerodrome controllers relating to the provision of relevant traffic information, to enhance pilot situational awareness.

Airservices Australia

Airservices Australia has advised that all mandated regional tower refresher training relating to Hobart tower, including a separation assurance module, has now been completed.

Airservices Australia has advised that they are addressing the issue of obtaining read-backs, when necessary, through controller education. The following article was published to all Airservices Australia tower staff in the February 2006 issue of 'Safety Talk' magazine.

Did the Pilot Really Understand?

A number of incidents have occurred in the circuit area when pilots have used a callsign to acknowledge an ATC instruction and then operated contrary to the instruction. eg.

  • An aircraft turned base after being instructed to maintain downwind or
  • An aircraft made a left circuit after being instructed to make a right circuit.

In both of the incidents above the pilot acknowledged the controllers instructions with only a callsign.

Read back requirements are clearly specified in MATS (a-g). But have you really read the fine print?

The first sentence of paragraph requires ATSO [air traffic services officers] to ensure that a correct read back of ATC clearances, instructions and information 'in sufficient detail' is obtained. The second sentence then prescribes the read back requirements for some very specific ATC voice transmission types such as route clearances, hold short instructions, assigned runway, direction of turn etc.

You are now probably wondering what 'read back in sufficient detail' means in relation to those instructions you give that are not covered by the seven types. A good rule of thumb is the more critical the clearance, instruction or information that is provided to the pilot then the more detailed should be the read back.

In the original incidents if instead of only a callsign, the pilot responses have been 'ABC Roger maintain downwind' or 'ABC right circuit' then there would have been an increased possibility that the pilot actually understood what the controller really intended. Remember; if you do not get a read back that confirms the required action, then ask for one 'ABC Confirm……'. It may be too late when you next see what the pilot has actually done.

Airservices Australia has advised that as a follow-up to this article they have developed a roving check and standardisation programme for regional towers. As part of the programme, check and standardisation officers place emphasis on the use of correct phraseology and read-back.

Instructor pilot

The instructor advised that he has adjusted his aviation and non-aviation work commitments to ensure that he is adequately rested prior to undertaking flying operations.

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