For many non‑major airports in Australia, flight crews of arriving aircraft can access current weather information using an Automatic Weather Information Service via very high frequency radio, which has range limitations. Where this service is available, air traffic services will generally not alert pilots to significant deteriorations in current weather conditions at such airports, increasing the risk of pilots not being aware of the changes at an appropriate time to support their decision making.
Safety action taken by Airservices Australia in response to safety recommendation AO‑2013‑100‑SR‑057 introduced a system‑based solution to provide pilots with SPECI weather reports, for all non‑towered locations, that are useful for the safe conduct of the flight. Provision of this information by ATC will occur irrespective of whether an automatic broadcast facility exists. As such, the identified safety issue associated with range limitations of automated weather information services has been addressed.
In response to this safety issue, Airservices Australia (Airservices) advised of the following proactive safety action:
Airservices acknowledges the safety issue which highlights the VHF range limitations of automatic weather information service (AWIS) broadcast. In response to the safety issue, Airservices will work with the Bureau of Meteorology to explore feasible options to provide information on significant deteriorations in weather conditions.
In the meantime or in the absence of a feasible option identified, existing avenues exist for flight crews to obtain in-flight weather information. For example in this occurrence, the Mildura SPECIs were available on the Mt William AERIS (119.75) as referenced in AIP [Aeronautical Information Package] (ERSA) [En Route Supplement Australia]. In addition, the flight crew of VOZ1384 and QFA735 had the opportunity to utilise the ‘on‑request’ FIS [Flight Information Service] to request updated Mildura weather from ATC.
To address the impact on the Automatic Broadcast Service (ABS) when out of service, Airservices has taken safety actions to update MATS [Manual of Air Traffic Services] and NAPM [National ATS Procedures Manual] to ensure the continued dissemination of weather information from locations with AWIS.