U.S.-Like System Brings Airspace Angst To Oz

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Today might not be the best for traveling in Australia. The nation's airline pilots were threatening to throttle back near airports, ostensibly to prevent colliding with light aircraft they claim have been thrown into their airspace by new airspace designations and regulations, which, incidentally, are modeled after the U.S. system. "People who are probably the least experienced operators of aircraft are being allowed unfettered access to commercial airspace," Ted Lang, president of the air controllers union, said in a statement. The slowdown was expected to throw airline schedules into chaos, and further indignities awaited passengers unlucky enough to be on board the pokey airliners. Increased cabin checks were planned and passengers were to be buckled up below 10,000 feet in case the crew had to take "evasive action." The most contentious part of the new regs is the section that releases VFR traffic below 10,000 feet from being under direct contact with ATC. The rules also shrink the terminal control areas to a size more commonly found in the rest of the world. Regulators say the changes were needed to bring Australia in line with ICAO standards and to reflect the effect of modern technology. Airservices Australia, the government-owned company in charge of airspace regulations, said the pilots' concerns are unfounded because all aircraft will have transponders to make them visible on ground and airborne radars. He said similar rules exist in the U.S. where traffic is heavier and the weather often worse. But detractors claim Australia's unique circumstances don't necessarily fit that mold and they fear an increased risk of midair collisions. "Our regulators have chosen to significantly increase the chance of collision," said Robin Beville-Anderson, of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots. "The people who have done this will have blood on their hands."