The hot topic of just about everyone in aviation's conversations lately is the CASA directive regarding GAAP aerodromes. For those that don't know, there have been a few changes to how things operate at GAAP aerodromes and more dramatic changes scheduled in for April next year.
The first, and probably most significant change is that an Air Traffic Controller may only allow a maximum of six aircraft in the circuit at any one time, including departures and arrivals sequenced to the runway. This "cap" is applicable for fixed wing aircraft only and does not include helicopters. The ATC may also increase this number to a total of seven aircraft at their discretion, with an additional departure. Arrivals shall have priority over departures.
So how has this affected the daily operations of a busy GAAP aerodrome?
From an ATC point of view, the first issue that was raised is the distraction of constantly having to monitor how many aircraft on frequency.
At the point of full capacity it can be quite an effort. Noting that helicopters are not included, it is not uncommon to have 10+ aircraft on frequency with a stream of arrivals and with departures waiting at the holding point. The controller must monitor when a departing aircraft crosses the CTR boundary, freeing up space for another aircraft to be given a clearance.
It is also important that ATC monitor the inbound reporting points for potential arrivals. Clearing too many aircraft for take-off can result in arrivals exceeding the "cap" and those aircraft being required to hold outside controlled airspace and wait for a clearance.
The other factor these changes have had a huge affect on in the tower is staffing. Previously, during times of reduced traffic, Air Traffic Controllers would combine the ADC frequencies and operate with reduced staffing to facilitate breaks from the console (it is a requirement that a controller does not work in an operational position for longer than 3 hours at a time). The one controller would allow up to four aircraft in the training circuit on one frequency, and arrivals and departures on the other. This is no longer acceptable.
From a pilots point of view, the new procedures mean increased holding outside controlled airspace during times of heavy traffic, and restrictions of operations like training circuits. Some might argue that restricting the circuit to six aircraft is a good thing, as it is a better training environment. But doesn't the increased holding of aircraft outside controlled airspace defeat the purpose of what they are trying to achieve in the first place? Safer general aviation?
There is no doubt that the control zone is a safer place to fly now. But I don't think that was the problem. The problem lies OUTSIDE controlled airspace.
So how can CASA solve the problem of General Aviation? Let me tell you now, Class D isn't the answer. Talk about complicating things. Let's look at licencing.
My opinion is GAAP works. I can squeeze more than a dozen aircraft into that tiny control zone. Give me 12 competent pilots and I'll guarantee no issues. But as soon as you put one moron amongst them, the system doesn't work. Even with our new cap of six aircraft it can be difficult.
The fact is, there are just too many incompetent pilots flying around GAAP aerodromes. It is quite obvious from the tower that some don't read the documents, don't read their NOTAMS. It's a disgrace.
My Life And ATC's Rules To Licencing
- Don't give a pilots licence to someone who shouldn't have one
- Take the licence away if they can't operate safely
- Don't give a pilots licence to someone who shouldn't have one!