Recommendation R19990201

Recommendation issued to: AusSAR

Recommendation details
Output No: R19990201
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 AusSAR, in conjunction with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and Airservices Australia, develop appropriate separation standards for the safe operation of aircraft involved in search and rescue operations.

Initial response
Date issued: 03 May 2000
Response from: AusSAR
Action status: Monitor
Response text:

CASA has advised AusSAR that it would not be feasible to achieve an enforceable regime to enhance the safety of SAR aircraft operations without adversely affecting search integrity. Instead risks to search aircraft might be mitigated by the professionalism of the aviators concerned and by controlling the environment through the imposition of temporary Restricted Areas.

On the basis of that advice AusSAR is focusing primarily on facilitating mutual separation by search aircraft operating in uncontrolled airspace. Measures within AusSAR's control that are already taken include pre-flight briefings to pilots about other search aircraft and provision of on-scene communications support through top cover aircraft.

Additionally, AusSAR's normal practice of assigning a single aircraft to each search area, while used to ensure search integrity, also serves to facilitate mutual separation. Similarly, the practice of staggering adjacent search altitudes when practicable also eases pilot workload for mutual separation so that they may concentrate on flying accurate search patterns.

It should be noted, however, that neither of these practices is mandatory in AusSAR's procedures. Aircraft will be tasked to achieve the optimum search outcomes. For example, multiple helicopters may occasionally be tasked to conduct a closely spaced search of a single area. Staggering search altitudes is not practicable over hilly terrain or where the staggered altitudes are incompatible with visual detection of the target.

All of that having been said, it is not clear to AusSAR that the risks associated with tasking large numbers of search aircraft to operate in remote uncontrolled airspace and, implicitly, around uncontrolled aerodromes have yet been adequately evaluated by CASA or Airservices Australia. AusSAR maintains that such an evaluation is warranted. Perhaps the imminent review of CASR Part 138 would be a suitable vehicle to address this issue.

Liaison with CASA and Airservices on these matters will continue.

ATSB response:

ATSB note: This response was classified as MONITOR and was used as support for the Bureau's further correspondence to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority on this issue. As a result, AusSAR submitted further correspondence on the issue on 22 June 2000.

Further correspondence
Date issued: 22 June 2000
Response from: AusSAR
Response status: Closed - Accepted
Response text:

Thank you for your letter regarding the matter of provision of separation assurance for aircraft involved in search and rescue operations.

As you are aware AusSAR also wrote to CASA and Airservices prior to the finalisation of the ATSB report seeking their advice on this issue. Our views on the matter were comprehensively explained in our response to the initial ADF-DFS/ATSB draft report on the incident.

AusSAR would be happy to participate in a working group in cooperation with CASA and Airservices Australia. We look forward to being informed of the venue and date.

Last update 01 April 2011