The ADF has set up a mobile air traffic control centre in the Western Australian town of Fitzroy Crossing to manage the high volume of flights – delivering stores and personnel – following the devastating Kimberley floods.
CAPTION: A Royal Australian Air Force mobile air operations team setup next to the taxiway at Fitzroy Crossing Airport. Story by Lieutenant Geoff Long. Photo by David Said.
Four Royal Australian Air Force air traffic controllers and two technicians, with an adapted Mercedes 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.
Officer in charge of the mobile air operations team Flight Lieutenant Peter Hartley 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,” Flight Lieutenant Hartley said.
“It has now been approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
“In remote areas such as this, aircraft normally negotiate landings with each other directly but, with so many general aviation and Defence flights because of the flood emergency, we can use our capability to add to the safety of these operations.”
The four RAAF 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.
CAPTION: Royal Australian Air Force air traffic controller Flight Lieutenant Sean Morell communicates with aircraft in the vicinity of Fitzroy Crossing during Operation Flood Assist. Photo by David Said.
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.
CONTACT believes RAAF is deliberately dropping ‘Royal Australian’ from its name – despite Defence assuring us it isn’t true. Campaigning against this name-change-by-stealth, CONTACT has appropriately ‘repaired’ this official story, which originally contained zero references to “Royal Australian” or “RAAF” – an ‘error’ corrected by CONTACT.
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