Air Force helps manage flooded air space


The ADF has set up a mobile air traffic control centre in the West Australian town of Fitzroy Crossing to manage the high volume of flights – delivering stores and personnel – following the devastating Kimberley floods.

Four Air Force air traffic controllers, two technicians, and an adapted G-Wagon pre-packed with radio and communications equipment have relocated to the edge of the town’s air strip, where they are managing both ADF and civilian air traffic.

Flight Lieutenant Peter Hartley, Officer in Charge of the mobile air operations team, said the air traffic controllers were overseeing about 200 air movements a day at the airport.

“Fitzroy Crossing airport authorities requested the mobile facility through the Department of Fire and Emergency Services liaison office. It has now been approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA),” Flight Lieutenant Hartley said.

“In remote areas such as this, aircraft normally negotiate landings with each other directly but, with so many general aviation and Defence flights due to the flood emergency, we can use our capability to add to the safety of these operations.

The four Air Force air traffic controllers were brought in from different bases in Australia, including Darwin, East Sale and Amberley, and are experienced working with civilian and Defence aircraft.

Flight Lieutenant Hartley said the team was also experienced in remote operations through exercises such as last year’s Vigilant Scimitar in Charters Towers and previous deployments such as Operation Bushfire Assist in Gippsland, Victoria.

“Dealing with these types of situations in remote parts of the country is why we train and it’s why we’re in the ADF, so we’re very happy to bring our skills and help in an emergency situation,” he said.

Fitzroy Crossing was at the centre of the state’s worst flood event on record, with the main highway and many surrounding communities isolated by floodwater and damage to infrastructure.

RAAF C-27J Spartan aircraft and Army MRH-90 Taipan and CH-47F Chinook helicopters have been flying into Fitzroy Crossing with supplies, personnel and equipment to aid the flood response efforts, while the Department of Fire and Emergency Services is also using small commercial aircraft and helicopters from the general aviation sector.

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