Tasmania air radar system failures prompt calls for probe

23 August 2015 (Last Updated August 23rd, 2015 18:30)

Australian aviator Dick Smith has called for an enquiry into the frequent failures of the six million dollars air radar system at Hobart and Launceston airports in Tasmania.

Australian aviator Dick Smith has called for an enquiry into the frequent failures of the six million dollars air radar system at Hobart and Launceston airports in Tasmania.

Installed in 2010 by Sensis, the Tasmania Wide Area Multilateration (TASWAM) system is said to have failed around 22 times in a month at one time, reported the Australian.

According to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau's online database, more than 90 failures in the TASWAM system occurred between mid-2010 and May 2013.

Since no failures seem to have happened since then, Airservices Australia linked the problem to an administrative malfunction and also hinted that more failures were likely to occur in the future,

Airservices spokesman Rob Walker said the system has failed continuously, but the failures were within the normal range.

"Most months it's one to three (failures) across the 14 stations. To have one or two outages a month, and some months with no outages, would be within the normal range of operational serviceability and reliability for any of our surveillance equipment around Australia."

While a planned Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) review of Hobart and Launceston airspace was revealed last month, pilots are said to be skeptical that the review could lead to major changes.

The TASWAM system uses both multilateration and Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast (ADS-B).

Using signals from 14 ground stations to triangulate the positions of flights, the system was originally meant to enhance en route surveillance of air traffic across the island and to the surface at Hobart and Launceston Airports.

However, it is now only used as a situational awareness tool below 8500ft by tower-based air traffic controllers who use radio contacts with pilots and visual observations for the same function.