Mode Aviation
Reference No. AR201800081
Date reported 19 July 2018
Concern title Hazards at uncertified aerodromes.
Concern summary

The concern related to the lack of legislation available to manage airspace hazards at uncertified aerodromes.

Industry / Operation affected Aviation: Airspace management
Concern subject type Aviation: Regulatory

Reporter's concern

The reporter referenced an incident where a 30 metre crane was operating within 100 metres of a runway threshold at an uncertified aerodrome. Consultation with the crane operator, CASA, Airservices, relevant Council and relevant Safe Work revealed that no regulatory jurisdictions were breached.

The reporter further advised that there was no effective mechanism in which to alert flight crew to these types of hazards. The process for issuing NOTAMs at uncertified aerodromes are arduous. Once a NOTAM is issued, the ability for flight crew to find a NOTAM that may be relevant to them in regional flight information is limited, given the volume of NOTAMs and the inability to search NOTAMs by locations. If crew do not, or are unable to contact aerodrome staff prior to their arrival (rightly or wrongly), they would be unaware of the hazard.

The reporter stated that the crane boom and the attached hoist rope and lift posed an obvious and real safety risk for aircraft utilising the runway. Hazards of this nature have the potential to affect aviation safety throughout Australia. Amendments to any local or state based legislation will not address the systemic issue.

The reporter has asked if CASA will consider reviewing the rules governing hazards and obstructions, including the operation of cranes, in the proximity of uncertified aerodromes; and/or, if CASA would consider classifying uncertified aerodromes, enabling those with high levels of air traffic to issue NOTAMs to the aerodrome rather than in regional flight information.

Regulator’s response:

CASA can advise the process for issuing NOTAM for aerodromes is the responsibility of Airservices Australia (AsA). Therefore, information regarding the issue of NOTAM should be sought from AsA.

With reference to uncertified aerodromes there are currently three types of facilities in Australia that are not certified. They are either registered aerodromes, certain other aerodromes, and Aeroplane Landing Areas (ALA). The subject of the REPCON appears to be regarding ALAs.

The owner of an ALA may apply for an aerodrome to become registered or certified where the minimum standards are met. An aerodrome must be registered or certified if a terminal instrument flight procedure is published for one of the runways – regulation 139.030 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 mandates this requirement.

Pilots that intend to land at or take-off from an ALA are required, as part of the flight planning process, to assess the suitability of the aerodrome for the intended flight. CASA has developed guidance information for ALAs in Civil Aviation Advisory Publication (CAAP) 92-1. The CAAP includes references to relevant legislation including regulations 92, 93, 233 and 235 of the Civil Aviation Regulations 1988. Pilots are required to seek permission to land at an ALA and use that communication process to clarify the current condition of the ALA.

The ALA operator also has a duty of care to ensure the aerodrome is serviceable and suitable for use by the intended aircraft.

Local government authorities also have the option within town planning provisions to control infrastructure developments on land adjacent to an ALA. There is also scope for local government authorities to develop by-laws, within the scope of the delegation for this form of legislation. Some local government authorities use this option to develop a specific airport by-law to assist with the management of an aerodrome within local government control. 

CASA does not have plans to revise policy or regulations regarding this matter.

Airservices Australia response:

  • Airservices cannot raise a NOTAM on uncertified aerodromes/ALA. In this situation, the NOTAM would have needed to be raised on the FIR by CASA (as the airspace owner).
  • The NOTAM could have been issued by the CASA FOI following a safety and risk analysis of the NOTAM request.
  • The way in which the notification of the crane was handled was in line with our current procedures under CASR Part 175. Due to the introduction of CASR Part 175, Airservices NOTAM Office has established a thorough check process to ensure individual NOTAMs are authorised under the location requiring a NOTAM.

ATSB comments to the Regulator:

With regard to the NOTAM originator authority, CASA’s response stated “…the process for issuing NOTAM for aerodromes is the responsibility of Airservices Australia (AsA). Therefore, information regarding the issue of NOTAM should be sought from AsA.” However, Airservices stated that they “cannot raise a NOTAM on uncertified aerodromes/ALA. In cases where a NOTAM is believed to be required due to safety concerns, this determination is made by CASA as the airspace owner and a relevant NOTAM would be raised on the FIR.”

Noting Airservices response, could you please confirm CASA’s response regarding the NOTAM originator authority. If so, could we request that CASA facilitate a discussion with Airservices regarding the issuing of NOTAMs, so that both agencies are clear on the other’s roles and responsibilities and advise the ATSB of the outcome accordingly.

Noting a previous REPCON AR201700023, whilst in regards to a separate safety concern, there seemed to be some confusion not only from the reporter, but also between CASA and AsA who hold some of the responsibilities in relation to NOTAMs.  

Regulator’s response:

It is the opinion of Air Navigation, Airspace and Aerodromes (ANAA) that the initial CASA response - REPCON AR201800081 is not clear as it does not clarify the roles and responsibilities for NOTAM requests, issues and terminology used. The REPCON response primarily refers to the policy and regulations regarding ALAs rather than NOTAM procedures which appears to be the primary concern of the REPCON reporter. As a consequence, ANAA would like to submit this additional information to provide responses to the questions asked.

The ANAA response to the ATSB question is:

ICAO Annex 15 sets out the requirements for the issuing of NOTAMS. The Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 (CASR) subpart 175 provides the NOTAM regulatory framework in Australia and is the regulation that permits CASA to request a NOTAM for safety of flight reasons.

Below are the considerations, based on both Annex 15 and CASR 175, for the publication of NOTAMS in Australia and are found in the attachments. These procedures are understood between CASA and Airservices:

  • NOTAM Group Management User Guide; and
  • NOTAM Data Quality Requirements.
  • The NOTAM Office (NOF) within ASA is actually a ‘publishing house’ (for want of a descriptive term) and does not raise NOTAMs themselves;
  • The NOTAM process is that a NOTAM authorised person (NOTAM originator) requests a NOTAM to be issued by the NOF;
  • A NOTAM authorised person is required to be listed as an aeronautical data originator on a Data Product Specification (DPS) with ASA;
  • The aeronautical data originator creates a NOTAM group that contains the listed NOTAM authorised persons in that group;
  • To be listed as a NOTAM originator, a person is required to have completed training;
  • A NOTAM can currently, only be requested for an aerodrome with an AVFAX code. An ALA does not have such a code;
  • A full NOTAM service is provided for certified, registered and military aerodromes and certain other aerodromes regulated under CASR Part 139.D as well as specialised helicopter operations with published terminal instrument flight procedures under CASR Part 173. An ALA does not meet any of the aforementioned aerodromes;
  • An aerodrome NOTAM originator may only request a NOTAM if it is about a facility, event or hazard that has a direct effect on the aerodrome operations (generally within 5NM of a full NOTAM service aerodrome), on the ground or within the airspace associated with that aerodrome;
  • For other airspace NOTAMS there are a number of NOTAM originators listed on the CASA DPS that are permitted to request NOTAMS such as officers of the Office of Airspace Regulation (OAR), Flying Operations Inspectors (FOIs), CASA sport aviation team members (to name a few groups). Any of these officers are permitted to submit NOTAM requests which could include safety of flight issues;
  • Limited information is published in ERSA for some aircraft landing areas (ALAs) and a NOTAM service is not provided except for changes to:
    • NAVAID, CTAF or ATS frequencies when requested by the service provided or CASA;
    • Special procedures when requested by Airservices or CASA;
    • MET facilities/services as requested by the BoM.
  • When an aerodrome NOTAM is required it will be raised on the location if the aerodrome has an AVFAX code listed in ERSA and if no AVFAX code listed, then it will be raised on the appropriate Flight Information Region (FIR).

The NOF often contacts the Office of Airspace Regulation for clarification as to whether a NOTAM can be categorized as being required due to safety concerns after receipt when it may fall outside of one of the categories as listed above.

With reference to REPCON AR20180008, It is noted that the REPCON does not state the actual location of the crane in relation to the runway threshold (i.e. was it on approach or perpendicular to the approach?). It is not clear from the REPCON as to what type of aerodrome (Registered, Military or ALA) the crane was erected at and for what period of time.

There are two responsible entities for determining whether an ALA is safe for aircraft operations:

  • The ALA operator/owner; and
  • Any pilot in command (PIC) using that ALA.

The PIC has a responsibility for ensuring that the approach and runway are clear of obstacles and safe for landing on. Should they see an obstruction on approach, the pilot is to conduct a go around and to then assess whether they can land on that runway. There is a standard procedure termed the precautionary search and landing that is taught to all pilots. When a pilot flies into an unfamiliar airstrip, there are lots of unknowns. A precautionary inspection of an unfamiliar airstrip before landing is a logical and effective method to satisfy the PIC that they have chosen a suitable landing area for their skill level. Such techniques identify is there is an obstacle in the undershoot area, on the field and in the overshoot area.

CASA Standards are the primary CASA area involved in Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP) matters including NOTAMs.

Airservices will be able to provide further clarification of the issues and reasoning as to why NOTAMs cannot be issued for certain types of aerodromes and what considerations are being given by Airservices to the publication of FIR NOTAMs to provide a more beneficial service to pilots as it has been identified that FIR NOTAMs are sometimes hard to locate due to the numbers published at any given time.

ATSB comment

The reporter commented that they were displeased with the response from the Regulator

Last update 17 December 2019