Mode Aviation
Reference No. AR201800065
Date reported 18 June 2018
Concern title En Route Supplement Australia (ERSA) reference that [Location] airport must not be nominated as an alternate without the consent of airport operator
Concern summary

Restricting the use of an alternate aerodrome creates unnecessary distractions and increased workload for flight crew and ATC during critical flight phases or emergency situations.

Industry / Operation affected Aviation: Airports
Concern subject type Aviation: Airport

Reporter's concern

The reporter has raised a concern regarding a reference to [Location] information in the En Route Supplement Australia (ERSA) at FAC-[aerodrome code] -6, item 10. i) which states: [Location Airport must not be nominated as an alternate without the consent of airport operator.]

The definition of an alternate aerodrome, prescribed by ICAO Annex 2, is “an aerodrome to which an aircraft may proceed when it becomes either impossible or inadvisable to proceed to or to land at the aerodrome of intended landing where the necessary services and facilities are available, where aircraft performance requirements can be met and which is operational at the expected time of use”.

Alternate aerodromes include the following:

  • Take-off alternate. An alternate aerodrome at which an aircraft would be able to land should this become necessary shortly after take-off and it is not possible to use the aerodrome of departure.
  • En route alternate. An alternate aerodrome at which an aircraft would be able to land in the event that a diversion becomes necessary while en route.
  • Destination alternate. An alternate aerodrome at which an aircraft would be able to land should it become either impossible or inadvisable to land at the aerodrome of intended landing.
  • Note— the aerodrome from which a flight departs may also be an en route or a destination alternate aerodrome for that flight.

Annex 2 defines that an aircraft may proceed to an alternate aerodrome where the necessary services and facilities are available, and where usability criteria can be met, and which is operational at the expected time of use. The definition does not specify that the permission of the aerodrome operator is required to use the aerodrome as an alternate. The reporter queries if the information in the ERSA invalidates the definition of an alternate aerodrome as published in ICAO Annex 2.

The reporter states that applying restrictions to use an alternate aerodrome has obvious safety implications by creating unnecessary distractions and increasing workload for flight crew and ATC during critical flight phases or emergency situations. The reporter advises that under the AIP 2018 SUP H44/18, there has been no difference filed by Australia with respect to the definition of Alternate Aerodrome in Annex 2.

The reporter queries if the specified restriction is a non-conformity with ICAO Annex 2, Article 10 of the Chicago Convention, and Article 37 of the Chicago Convention.

Operator's response (Operator 1)

The aerodrome operator did not respond to the REPCON.

Regulator's response (Regulator 1)

[Location] appears to be the only airport listed in the ERSA expressing a requirement to obtain consent as a condition of use. The condition does not specifically breach civil aviation safety legislation. The condition is unlikely to have any safety implication since a pilot in command is entitled to divert to and land at [Location] airport whenever the airport is available, suitable and there is an operational need to do so. On this basis, a difference against ICAO Annex 2 does not need to be lodged by Australia.

Commercial matters which arise in the course of aircraft operations at [Location] airport should be resolved by the airport operator and the aircraft operator. Section 14(5)(g) of the Airports Act 1996 states an airport lease complies with s.14 if, (g) the lease provides for access to the airport by interstate air transport or international air transport, or both. The condition of consent may not be consistent with the requirements of the Airports Act 1996 and the conditions of the airport lease, and in this regard, it is suggested the reporter liaise with the Department of Infrastructure Regional Development and Cities. It is noted that as lease holder, the airport operator is obliged (and needs) to be prepared for the scope of aircraft diversions that may occur. Such information is relevant to the airport operator’s emergency planning, safety risk management, and business continuity planning.

The information published in ERSA could be revised to ask aircraft operators to consult with the airport operator (rather than use the word- ‘must’) before determining to nominate [Location] as an alternate airport for flight planning purposes. Alternatively use of the words ‘prior permission required’ would also be appropriate.

Regulator's response (Regulator 2)

We note the comments provided by CASA relating to provisions in the airport lease between the Commonwealth and the Airport Lessee Company for [Location] Airport.

The Department is of the view that requiring consent before the airport is nominated as an alternate does not necessarily amount to not providing for access to the airport by air transport and there is no reason why an Airport Lessee Company could not include a step requiring such consent before access is granted, as long as that consent is not unreasonably withheld.

From a safety perspective, the Department does not believe there to be any issue with the condition [Location] Airport has applied.  An airport is “nominated’ for flight planning purposes (mainly fuel calculations) before an aircraft departs.  Therefore, the fuel carry is determined ahead of departure relevant to the availability of a suitable alternate site.

In an emergency situation, a pilot can divert anywhere they consider necessary to safely complete the flight – regardless of whether that site has been ‘nominated’ beforehand.

In summary, the Department does not consider the consent condition applied by [Location] Airport is contrary to the airport’s head lease provisions nor do we consider it is inconsistent with ICAO.

Last update 05 August 2019