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Alerting function of special weather reports (SPECI) is not met by the automatic broadcast services

Issue number: AO-2013-100-SI-02
Who it affects: All pilots operating into non-major airports accessing an automatic broadcast service
Issue owner: Airservices Australia in consultation with the Bureau of Meteorology
Operation affected: Aviation: Air transport
Background: Investigation Report AO-2013-100
Date: 31 May 2016

Safety issue description

The automatic broadcast services did not have the capacity to recognise and actively disseminate special weather reports (SPECI) to pilots, thus not meeting the intent of the SPECI alerting function provided by controller-initiated flight information service.

Proactive Action

Action organisation: Airservices Australia
Date: 31 May 2016
Action status: Released

In response to this safety issue, Airservices advised the following:

Airservices appreciates the opportunity to provide comment on the additional safety issue and supporting documentation in relation to ATSB Investigation A0-2013-100 provided on 26 April 2016.

Airservices agrees with the safety issue and acknowledges that automatically generated SPECls from Automatic Broadcast Service (ABS), while operating as designed, may not be readily apparent to crew in situations where weather conditions change rapidly and differ from forecast conditions.

As discussed with the ATSB and Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) on 16 April 2016, just as it is not practical for pilots to continuously monitor SPECls whilst within one hour flight time of destination, it is also not practical for ATC to continuously monitor and disseminate SPECls. This is due to the volume and frequency of automatically generated SPECI data at locations with ABS, particularly in recent times where more sensors are available at unmanned weather stations. There is currently no mechanism as part of the ABS to filter the SPECI data to delineate that which is operationally significant to a flight.

To address the safety issue Airservices considers that a meteorological system-based solution is likely to be required, and Airservices is available to support the BoM to progress the feasibility assessment work and identify suitable design and implementation options. This work could potentially be progressed in the form of a BoM-led working group including the aviation industry.

ATSB response:

The ATSB notes Airservices agreement with the issue and intention to work with the Bureau of Meteorology to establish a solution. However the ATSB is concerned that Airservices, as the agency that provides flight information service in Australia, has not taken responsibility for the resolution of this safety issue. In addition, the indefinite nature of the proposed activity does not provide a high degree of confidence that the safety issue will be adequately addressed.

As a result, the ATSB has issued the following safety recommendation.

Recommendation

Action organisation: Airservices Australia
Action number: AO-2013-100-SR-057
Date: 31 May 2016
Action status: Released

The ATSB recommends that Airservices Australia as the safety issue owner works in collaboration with the Bureau of Meteorology to instigate a system change to reinstate the alerting function of SPECI reports currently not available through an automatic broadcast service.

   
Current issue status: Not addressed
 
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Last update 31 May 2016