|Date reported||19 February 2016|
|Concern title||The useability of the national aeronautical Information Processing System (NAIPS) flight planning module|
The concern related to the useability of the NAIPS flight planning module on the Airservices Australia website.
|Industry / Operation affected||Aviation: General aviation|
|Concern subject type||Aviation: Other|
The reporter expressed a safety concern relating to the useability of the NAIPS flight-planning module.
The reporter advised that when planning an IFR flight, the NAIPS system does not accept an [instrument approach] initial approach fix as a waypoint option even though a VFR reporting point is an option. This means that the crew must enter the flight plan using an aerodrome navigation aid and then advise of a change to the flight when they become airborne.
This anomaly results in unnecessary increased workload for both the flight crew and controllers.
The reporter cited an example of this:
- Rockhampton to Gladstone – this is a short flight and the crew will have an accurate weather report and will be able to predict which approach they will require, for example when a RNAV (GNSS) RUNWAY 10 approach is required, flight crew are unable to enter GLTWB into NAIPS as a waypoint in their flight plan.
For flight crew, this significantly increases their workload, as they are required to depart on the flight-planned track and request a clearance to alter their track. The track in their FMC must then be altered and the pre-arrival actions of setting up the instrument approach in the FMC completed after the ATC co-ordination and approval are received.
Reporter suggestion: Allow the use of IFR waypoints in NAIPS as this will significantly decrease the workflow for both controllers and pilots on short flights in IMC conditions.
Operator's response (Operator 1)
Airservices notes that the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP) ENR 1.10-20 (note 3) does not permit standard instrument departures (SID) / standard arrival route (STAR) identifiers and instrument approach fixes / waypoints to be flight planned for Australian airports. Please refer to Attachment 1 for the AIP extract.
Airservices understands the benefits identified by the reporter, however, there are some limitations in adopting the suggested amendments. In particular, outside surveillance coverage, Air Traffic Control (ATC) officers rely on designated routes, beacon/waypoint or co-sited navaid to determine procedural separation standards.
Flight planning via approach fixes would impact ATC workload outside surveillance coverage.
The application of longitudinal distance separation is reliant on obtaining distance reports from the same waypoint. In situations where longitudinal distance separation is being applied between pairs of aircraft, and one of the aircraft has flight planned via waypoints which are not associated with a defined ATS route, the impact is:
- ATC need to determine a suitable waypoint which the lead aircraft is tracking directly to/from. Once such a waypoint is identified, distance reports are required from this waypoint from both aircraft;
- Flight crew of the other aircraft need to manually interact with the FMS when the requested distance report is with reference to a waypoint which is not on their flight planned route.
Airservices has considered the reporter's requested change. However, it would negatively affect the air traffic flow management (ATFM) at aerodromes in controlled airspace. Using the initial approach fix requires the nomination of a duty runway.
Predicting the duty runway during the flight planning stage, especially on longer flights, will adversely affect the overall flow management into a particular aerodrome.
Airservices acknowledges that the reporter's concern highlights a potential issue of additional radio transmission between flight crew and ATC to reroute aircraft to Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) waypoints. Notwithstanding, flight crew are advised to use the following practical solutions:
- Planning via the latitude/longitude of the waypoint as per the NAIPS User Manual
- Requesting OCT (fix/waypoint) in the REMARKS section of the flight plan
- Asking the controller for clearance to the initial approach fix (for example, IFR FOR YGLA, REQUEST CLNCE VIA GL TWB (Gladstone WB).
Regulator's response (Regulator 1)
CASA has reviewed the matters raised in the REPCON and is satisfied the issues have been addressed by Airservices.