Business Aviation Flight Planning in Australia
This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operating in Australia.
For most business-aviation operators, flight planning in Australia is a relatively straightforward and user-friendly process. Flexibility of flight plans is good compared to the complexity of other regions around the world. Your 3rd-party provider will typically file operator flight plans, but your local ground handler may be the best resource should you encounter flight plan issues on day of operation. Here are some tips to help you with flight planning in Australia:
1. Expect standard Air Traffic Control (ATC) procedures
No specific ATC procedures are required other than standard airport procedures outlined in arrival charts.
2. Certain aircraft equipment is needed to operate to Australia
TCAS II, Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums (RVSM) certification, and Minimum Navigation Performance Specifications (MNPS) are required in Australia. Operators may, however, apply for waivers to operate without required equipment or certification, but this may impact your flight level and flight routing. Waivers are processed by Air Services Australia (ASA) and can be obtained via your 3rd-party provider, with seven working days’ lead time recommended. You’ll need to advise of equipment you have onboard and reasons why the aircraft needs to operate to Australia without specified equipment and/or certifications. Once a waiver is obtained, your 3rd-party provider will plan flight routings to avoid restricted airspace.
3. E-mail and fax are preferred methods of flight planning communication
Flight plans are normally filed via e-mail. It’s always recommended that you contact ASA to confirm your flight plan is on file for departure if filing on your own. If your 3rd-party provider is arranging the flight plans for you, they will ensure that it is on file with ASA. If your flight plan is filed by a ground handler, this will normally be accomplished via fax with a follow-up phone call. If a flight plan is filed incorrectly, such as when the format is non-compliant, ATC will contact the person or entity that filed the flight plan to clarify any issue. No specific information needs to be added to the ICAO portion of the flight plan. If there’s a departure delay, ATC will advise the crew directly. You must always flight plan based on airways; however, direct routings are often approved on request once you’ve departed vicinity of the airport.
4. Know flight planning process for day of operations
Flight plans may be filed up to 24 hours in advance but must be submitted a minimum of one hour prior to departure. If you are filing the flight plan an hour prior to departure, as long as you have a departure airport slot (when the airport deems this necessary) you’ll be able to depart at the time requested. Airport slots have deviation of -/+ 30 minutes for international flights and -/+15 minutes for domestic flights. If there’s a departure delay, a new estimated departure time will be required to obtain another departure airport slot.
5. Consider procedures for engine start and taxi
Approval needs to be obtained from ATC for engine start. In most cases, you’ll leave your aircraft parking spot under your own power. “Class C” aircraft and above (i.e., anything Boeing BBJ sized or larger) may need to be towed to position prior to engine start. Keep in mind that all aircraft in Australia are subject to unannounced ramp checks, which usually happen on arrival, but this is a rare event. Best practice is to always have required aircraft and crew documentation available.
6. Understand all operating procedures
All aircraft on international arrivals will need to disinfect the cabin with an approved spray prior to landing. This is typically done at top of descent or after arrival with crew and passengers onboard and the door shut. There may be curfews at certain airports to take into consideration, and arrival/departure delays do occur due to traffic congestion at the airport. While major airports offer full fire protection coverage, smaller regional airports may require advance notice to make arrangements, and that typically takes 72 hours to arrange. Mountainous terrain is a rare occurrence in Australia and not a significant consideration in flight planning. Due to the remote nature of central Australia, with few full service alternate airports available, some operators will want to consider extended operations (ETOPS) rules or Equal Time Point (ETP) planning.
7. Consider impact of weather when flight planning
While weather challenges are generally less troublesome in Australia, there are weather related issues to be aware of. Sydney (YSSY) can experience high winds, which may reduce operations to just one runway. Wind issues at YSSY can be more critical during night curfew times when approved aircraft must use the runway in one pre-determined direction. Airports in northern Australia, including Cairns (YBCS) and Darwin (YPDN), experience afternoon tropical weather activity during the wet season between October and March that may cause 60-minute holding delays. Cyclone activity can also be a factor between December and February. Canberra (YSCB) often has morning fog during winter months, which are between June and August. Jet stream activity across Australia, particularly east-west, can add one hour to the estimated time en route. An example of such a flight would be between YSSY and Perth (YPPH). Aircraft de-icing services do not exist in Australia as this part of the world rarely encounters cold temperature issues.
8. Take advantage of all available weather resources and tools
Comprehensive weather resources are available at all airports in Australia. There’s also a Web site providing weather and NOTAMS for all locations in Australia. You’ll need to request a login/password to access this site, and there are no charges to use it. Alternatively, your ground handler can help with access.
Always confirm directly with your 3rd-party provider, local ground handler, or ATC that the flight plan was received and is on file. If you experience a departure delay, call your ground handler or 3rd-party provider to secure a new departure airport slot when applicable. While weather issues are not usually problematic within Australia, there are tropical weather systems to consider in the north of the country during summer months.
If you have any questions about this article, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Later, we’ll discuss tips for navigating local area and culture in Australia.