Recommendation R19990200

Recommendation issued to: Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Recommendation details
Output No: R19990200
Date issued: 04 January 2000
Safety action status:
Background: Why this Recommendation was developed

Output text

The Directorate of Flying Safety - ADF and the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation (ATSB) recommends that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, in conjunction with AusSAR and Airservices Australia, determine appropriate separation standards for the safe operation of aircraft involved in search and rescue operations.

Initial response
Date issued: 18 April 2000
Response from: Civil Aviation Safety Authority
Action status: Open
Response text:

Given the particular nature of SAR operations, CASA is of the opinion that it would not be feasible to achieve a practical, enforceable regime of "separation assurance" which would enhance the safety of SAR aircraft operations without adversely impacting on AMSA's overall SAR integrity.

The extent to which the matter of "separation assurance" is an on-going problem to AMSA is not known. Without substantial evidence of it being a widespread problem, CASA would be reluctant to initiate legislation in this regard.

If AMSA were to consider it an imperative need that there be greater provision of "separation assurance", it could be worthwhile considering the imposition of temporary restricted areas as a means of more closely controlling the airspace environment during search action.

CASA and AMSA are working towards an MoU to clarify respective responsibilities and interaction between the agencies. CASA is prepared to engage in further discussions with Airservices and AMSA to establish an agenda of items to be considered in this respect. Out of these meetings, there may develop a working group suited to exploration of operational issues in greater detail, one of which might well be "separation assurance".

ATSB response:

The Bureau has considered your response to the above recommendation, dated 6 April 2000, and is of the opinion that regulatory guidance for the separation of such aircraft is warranted. As such, the ATSB has classified the response as - OPEN. Your response indicates that although CASA is of the opinion that it would not be feasible to achieve a practical, enforceable regime of separation assurance, CASA would be prepared to consider further discussions with Airservices Australia and AMSA on the issue.

Search plans often require aircraft to manoeuvre at a common boundary. As the limitations of the "see and avoid" principle in marginal VMC are often paramount in the minds of search organisers, they construct plans that give some form of vertical separation as a safety buffer. These buffers are based on their own experience and there are no regulations to give authority for such decisions.

The CASA position indicates that separation rules applicable to the airspace involved are adequate. However, in controlled airspace, this could mean that aircraft are conducting a search at 2,500 ft above the surface, a height that could severely limit the chances of spotting survivors.

In certain search situations, the ability of pilots to maintain an adequate lookout is limited and if they revert to full IFR separation procedures, the ability of the observers to locate a target is again diminished.

If AusSAR were to produce a search plan which did not provide formal IFR separation in circumstances where it was otherwise warranted, then litigation resulting from an accident would be a distinct possibility.

The Bureau considers that a working group consisting of appropriate representatives of CASA, AusSAR and Airservices Australia should look at the standards to be used in various search scenarios.

The ATSB therefore suggests that CASA review its earlier decision.

Further correspondence
Date issued: 27 July 2000
Response from: Civil Aviation Safety Authority
Response status: Closed - Partially Accepted
Response text:

CASA appreciates the concerns expressed by ATSB concerning separation standards of aircraft involved in SAR operations, and indeed more generally believes that other operational issues associated with SAR operations require addressing. However, in relation to the specific issue of separation standards, CASA maintains that because of the nature of SAR operations it may not be feasible to achieve a practical means of "separation assurance" without adversely affecting the overall integrity and flexibility of SAR operations.

Nonetheless, CASA endorses the ATSB suggestion that this issue be explored further by interested organisations, namely CASA, ATSB, AusSAR and Airservices. To this end CASA undertakes to initiate a meeting of representatives in the future. Furthermore, CASA intends to include the "separation assurance" aspects in a discussion paper on CASR Part 138 -Search and Rescue, which will be inviting industry input.

Further correspondence
Date issued: 03 September 2002
Response from: Civil Aviation Safety Authority
Response status: Closed - Accepted
Response text:

ATSB Note: The promised meeting was held on 3 September 2002 and resulted in a working group of all parties to review the separation criteria.

Last update 01 April 2011